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Thread: Inflatable holiday decorations as "signs"

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Inflatable holiday decorations as "signs"

    I can't believe this hasn't been encountered elsewhere. You know how many communities have exemptions in their sign codes for 'holiday decorations'. Well, many retail businesses around here have begun placing those 12 foot tall inflatable Christmas trees, Santas, and other holiday balloons in front of their businesses in much the same fashion that some gas stations figured out you can use GIANT American flags as 'signs' (and still enjoy an exemption under the local sign code).


    How have y'all dealt with this?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    The impish side of me would like to deal with it by placing a big inflatable carrot below the lowest button.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  3. #3
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    What do you mean that Santa and Frosty are banished?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  4. #4
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Eyes on the flow of traffic in front of you; you didn't see them, Stan. No harm, no foul (unless it's a blow-up duck, then it's no "fowl").
    Do you really want the media jumping on you for this?

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Do you really want the media jumping on you for this?
    That's the first thing both Mskis and I said. Understand that the decision to try regulate/prohibit the dang things wasn't our call.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  6. #6
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    .... Understand that the decision to try regulate/prohibit the dang things wasn't our call.
    Me thinks your supervisor/manager has their head where the sun don't shine.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Me thinks your supervisor/manager has their head where the sun don't shine.
    There was a change of heart... Maister and I think that someone was visited by three ghosts last night.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    ....and this is why those in the profession are sometimes accused of "social engineering." Come on....

  9. #9
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    What do you mean that Santa and Frosty are banished?
    Banished not for being Christmasy, but rather for looking too gay. Apparently Santa has two beards (one on his face and Mrs. Claus).
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by Jeff View post
    ....and this is why those in the profession are sometimes accused of "social engineering." Come on....
    There's certainly more to it than that. The OP focused on retail businesses (as opposed to home decorations) and I can very well see the likelihood of a retail war of escalation until you have 40' LED flashing Halloween pumpkins atop a gas station (from, about, oh mid-August until the 2000 sq. ft. US Flag goes up for armisitice day then comes down for the animitronic turkey, followed by the eight tiny reindeer and sleigh, immediately to be followed by the holographic image of Dr. King having a dream whereupon the good doctor is replaced by an arrow through the heart quickly shunted aside for Abe and George to announce mattress spectaculars they being taken down in favor of the leprechaun finding the pot 'o gold before the hip hop bunny struts his stuff followed by a long stretch of huge Old Glory for memory, in honor of itself, and joined lastly by a marvelous laser fireworks show which would bring us back to the new and improved jack-o-lantern). There have to be limits and you erode them if you look the other way here because it's "just a Christmas decoration". Bah humbug.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    you need to pick and choose your battles, this shouldnt be one of them IMO.

  12. #12
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Even though the decision was made today not to persecute the the local retailers' display of devout/sacred religious beliefs (i.e. putting up 50' tall skydancer Santa Clauses equipped with rotating laser-strobe spotlights and loudspeakers blaring HO HO HO at 95 decibels!)
    I'd still like to return to the original question how would you deal with it if you had to regulate and/or prohibit holiday decorations used in the context of advertising?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  13. #13
    Cyburbian mallen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I'd still like to return to the original question how would you deal with it if you had to regulate and/or prohibit holiday decorations used in the context of advertising?
    If I had to regulate such decorations it would probably look strikingly similar to this (note the last sentence is holiday neutral):

    "Temporary advertising devices. Banners, streamers, pennants, balloons, and similar temporary advertising devices shall be permitted on private property during the grand opening of a business, no more than five (5) days prior to opening and no longer than thirty (30) days after the date of the opening. Non-recreational hot-air, cold-air, or other gas-filled advertising devices are prohibited at all times."

  14. #14
    Cyburbian permaplanjuneau's avatar
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    We've dealt with this issue in a variety of ways, with varying levels of success, depending on the "sign" in question.

    49.45.270 Prohibited signs and sign materials.

    In addition to any sign or sign materials not specifically in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, the following are prohibited:

    (d) Signs consisting of any moving, rotating, flashing, or otherwise animated light or component, except for time and temperature displays and barber poles;

    (f) Permanent flags, posters, ribbons, streamers, strings of lights, spinners, twirlers or propellers, flares, balloons, and similar devices, or containing elements creating sound. Temporary displays as described in this subsection may be erected on the site on which an advertised event is taking place no sooner than ten days prior to the event and shall be removed within five working days after the event. No such temporary displays may be installed for a period exceeding 30 days in any quarter. Holiday decoration lighting from November 15 through January 15, and international, federal, state, or local government flags are exempt from this subsection;

    (g) Any sign which has no permanent attachment to a building or the ground, including A-frame signs, pole attachments, mobile signs, portable wheeled signs, and sandwich boards. Signs on licensed, functional motor vehicles are exempt from this subsection, provided that the primary use of the vehicle is not the display of signs and that such vehicle is not used as a static display for advertising;



    Beyond the prohibitions above, the definition of "sign" addresses this issue:

    Sign means any device for visual communication that is used for the purpose of bringing the subject thereof, to the attention of the public, excluding:

    (2) Flags and insignia of any governmental agency except when displayed in connection with commercial promotion;

    (5) Artwork having no commercial connotations.


    Excluding artwork which has no commercial connotation is sometimes problematic, such as the case when a laser tag venue posted a giant sign on their building showing a smiling kid with a laser gun in the foreground and a "space battle" in the background. The owner appealed our decision that the artwork had a commercial connotation and was therefore a sign, and won, albeit on a technicality (the Planning Commission ruled that the department had taken too long in bringing the case before them, and that the elapsed time constituted an "error of policy." We took our time because the sign was posted without a permit in the first place, and we thought it would be "nice" of us to give the property owner a few months of use of their expensive sign before we made them take it down).

    Another odd case related to the exclusion of artwork with no commercial connotation from the definition of a sign was the life-size "tin man" made out of sheet metal on the roof of a sheet metal company. Alone, this artwork had a commercial connotation. So the sheet metal company built sheet metal flying monkeys, a scarecrow, Dorothy, Toto, a tornado, and a giant green head (presumably the Wizard of Oz) (all the characters except the original tin man are painted to cover the metal). Now that it's just a permanent scene out of the Wizard of Oz which happens to be made out of sheet metal and on the roof of a sheet metal company's building, it doesn't have commercial connotation, and isn't a sign anymore.

    Clearly, our ordinance isn't perfect, although it does deal with some of the problems addressed in this thread. At least the giant inflatable Maytag Man can only be outside the furniture store he lives at for no more than 30 days every four months.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Our Ordinance deals with inflatables, but no one is going to enforce it if they are similar to residential displays, particularly with respect to Christmas. It is not worth the trouble or bad publcity.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian rosierivets's avatar
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    Well, a community I used to work for seemed to experience a rash of Santa slayings. I'm not so sure it wasn't an inside job. Especially since the same place got slashed three times.... not saying that vandalisim is the way to go, but it was *slightly* humorous.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian chasqui's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by rosierivets View post
    Well, a community I used to work for seemed to experience a rash of Santa slayings. I'm not so sure it wasn't an inside job. Especially since the same place got slashed three times.... not saying that vandalisim is the way to go, but it was *slightly* humorous.
    Yuletide punnery! Santa *sleighings* - jaja! you kill me!

  18. #18
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Citizen Kane View post
    Our Ordinance deals with inflatables, but no one is going to enforce it if they are similar to residential displays, particularly with respect to Christmas. It is not worth the trouble or bad publcity.
    Same here. We prohibit inflatable signs, but there is nothing to preclude holiday decorations in residential districts.

  19. #19

    Pretty clear cut in San Diego

    San Diego Municipal Code Section 142.1255(a-c):

    Temporary Secondary Signs in Commercial and Industrial Zones
    (a) Temporary signs shall not be directly illuminated.
    (b) Temporary signs shall not be permanently installed or affixed to any sign structure or building.
    (c) Table 142-12K identifies the type of temporary secondary signs permitted in the different sign categories.

    (TABLE OMITTED HERE)

    San Diego Municipal Code Section 142.1255(g):

    Inflatable displays shall comply with the following regulations.

    (1) The display shall be ground-mounted or roof-mounted and filled with ambient air.
    (2) The display shall not be placed within 300 feet of any other inflatable display on the same premises or within 300 feet of a freeway public right-of-way.
    (3) The display shall not be placed within 100 feet of a residentially zoned premises.
    (4) The display shall observe all Federal Aviation Administration height limitations.
    (5) The display shall not be located within required setbacks.
    (6) The display shall not be in place more than 10 consecutive business days, nor more than a total of 20 calendar days in a 12-month period.
    (7) The materials used shall not fade or tear during the period of installation. Structural materials and installation shall comply with the provisions of California State General Order Number 95.
    (8) The display shall not be attached to fences, trees, shrubbery, or utility poles.
    (9) The display shall not be placed in or project into the public right-of-way.
    (10) The display shall not obstruct or obscure primary signs on adjacent premises.
    (11) The display shall not create a traffic hazard because of the distractive character of the display or the cumulative effect of all displays to motorists.

    Also, although not specifically stated in this specific code section, all of the regulations of the underlying zone would need to be observed (i.e. height, etc)
    Last edited by travis.cleveland; 13 Dec 2006 at 4:55 PM. Reason: wrong code section citation

  20. #20
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Way back when I suggested regulating Xmas tree sales at churches in residential districts. That's when I got the nickname PLANNER GRINCH. I found that a little lattitude between turkey day and Jan 2 really isn't that big a deal, unless there are complaints.

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