Proposed amendment would allow fewer temporary signs in business areas

WILLMAR -- Fewer temporary signs, like those that spring up along South First Street and the Kandi Mall parking lot, would be allowed under a sign ordinance amendment being proposed by the Willmar Planning Commission.

WILLMAR -- Fewer temporary signs, like those that spring up along South First Street and the Kandi Mall parking lot, would be allowed under a sign ordinance amendment being proposed by the Willmar Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission is recommending the sign ordinance be amended to deal with local issues surrounding temporary signs, portable signs and off-premises signs.

Public comments on the amendment will be taken by the City Council during a hearing at 7:03 p.m. Monday night in the council chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building. City staff recommends the amended ordinance be adopted by the council, be given a number and published.

Bruce Peterson, director of city planning and development services, said the Planning Commission has discussed and researched other cities' temporary and portable sign regulations.

"Following considerable review, the Planning Commission is recommending changes to the ordinance to make it easier to enforce and to clarify for business owners and the community exactly under which conditions those types of signs can be used,'' said Peterson.


Temporary signs

Peterson said temporary signs have proliferated during the past couple of years. Businesses will put up 25 to 30 or more signs on a stretch of street. The signs resemble political campaign signs, which are stuck into the ground on wire legs.

The Planning Commission is recommending that the size of temporary signs located in commercial or industrial districts be limited to 12 square feet in area and be restricted to two signs per business.

The Planning Commission is also recommending temporary signs be allowed by special permit only and that permits shall not exceed seven consecutive days per quarter year beginning on the day the permit is issued.

The problems with temporary signs are the frequency, duration and the number of signs that have been placed along South First Street, along the Kandi Mall parking lot and other spots around town.

"If a business wants to stick a couple of those (signs) out on their own property and have them up for a couple of days for a weekend sale or something, nobody cares,'' said Peterson. "But when they're putting them up for a week at a time and you'll have somebody with 200 feet of frontage and they'll have 50 signs up, that's excessive. That was the biggest issue with the temporaries.''

Portable signs

Portable signs are those that are pulled on trailers and have a changeable message. The message is typically lighted but not always.


The Planning Commission recommends an applicant for a portable sign permit be required to pay a $100 deposit to the city at the time the permit application is made. The deposit will be returned only if the sign is removed by the date stated on the permit.

If the sign remains at the site after the date specified on the permit, the deposit will be used to offset the cost incurred by city staff to remove the sign.

Peterson said enforcement of the portable sign provisions has been a problem.

"We've had less than stellar cooperation from some businesses. Have we fined them? No. When push comes to shove, we've gotten cooperation for the most part. But it's been such a time-consuming process for staff,'' said Peterson.

"We need something so our time is better spent. We've got a lot of people in the business community that follow the ordinances established by the council and they are vigilant in their oversight of the business community in general to ensure cooperation or enforcement,'' he said.

"At the present time, we have more compliance than non-compliance. We've not had the concerns within the last few months that we had last fall when it was really bad.''

Off-premises signs

Language proposed by the Planning Commission clarifies and enforces off-premises sign regulations.


Off-premises signs are now permitted only in instances when the traveling public will benefit or where a business is not visible from any street or highway.

The amendment would allow off-premises signs to also be used to advertise community events or events sponsored by nonprofit, civic, philanthropic, education or religious organizations.

Aesthetic benefit

Peterson said people have complained about the temporary signs.

"You hear from competitors and you hear from people who care about how the community looks,'' he said. "I hear favorable things from people regarding our community. They say they can drive down First Street and they can find things. They aren't overpowered by advertising. That's not true of every community.

"I think our ordinance maintains a reasonable level of aesthetic and provides more than a reasonable degree of advertising,'' he said.

City Council to meet Monday

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the council chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W.


The council will hold a hearing at 7:03 p.m. on an amendment to the sign ordinance relating to temporary, portable and off-premises signs.

The council will receive the reports of the Public Works/Safety Committee and the Community Development Committee.

The council will consider the final plat of Emerald Ponds, a residential development located east of Lakeland Drive and south of Welshire Addition.

Also, the council will receive the annual reports from the Police Department and Planning and Development Services Department.

Public comments will be taken during the open forum.

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