23 Aug 2014
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Code Changes Will Affect Grants, Signage

Among requested changes by Plan Commission to the municipal code are tighter oversight of improvement grants, and a relaxing of rules on leader board signs

Code Changes Will Affect Grants, Signage

A series of changes to the municipal code was recommended by the Plan Commission on Tuesday night, two of which are likely to impact what motorists see as they travel down the city's main artery, Janesville Road.

City Planner Jeff Muenkel explained the grants that are awarded to businesses through the Community Development Authority had not always been followed up on to make sure businesses "were good stewards of grant monies from the city."

Any building, site and operation plan(BSO) granted through CDA or site/façade improvement that uses grant money will need to follow approval guidelines 'in perpetuity.' In other words, improvements need to be maintained as long as the business zoning exists.

"We want to be able to follow up and enforce the rules for businesses to make sure they're maintaining these properties, especially if they've received city grant monies," Muenkel said.

The new regulations would stipulate that all buildings and structures are "maintained in a tasteful, safe and appropriate manner as they were originally approved for...all landscaping shall be periodically groomed and/or replaced when necessary, (and) all drives, parking and pedestrian areas shall be kept in a safe and passable condition."

Further discussion on leader board signage (LED signs that often 'flash' or 'scroll' a message on a timed interval) centered around what the effect on aesthetics and motorist safety would be. Similar signage exists in front of the

Muenkel said some cities have "gone overboard" with the use of such signs, but he felt the rules still in place would prevent a 'gambling town feel.' He also said that he and colleague Adam Trzebiatowski had done extensive research, and they "found no correllation between the signs and motorist safety."

Presently, signs can only be illuminated but nonflashing, and they also can't be "revolving, scrolling, or animated; however, time-and-temperature devices may be cyclical. Approved LED devices may advertise three messages per day."

The new regulations would allow signs to have such animation, and they would be able to change messages or the time/temperature every three seconds (versus every five). Colors and the intensity of the signage would still be subject to approval by the commission.

Several on the commission, including Jerry Hulbert, debated how long a message posted was sufficient enough "to take a look at it and get your eyes back on the road when you're driving." However, Muenkel said that businesses generally regulate that themselves to make sure customers can read enough of what the signs display.

The additional leeway being given was ultimately seen as a way to be business friendly without negatively affecting the look of the business districts.

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