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Thread: Window sign or display?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Flint, Michigan
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    Window sign or display?

    I need some sort of idea of how communities deal with the issues between what makes a sign and what makes a display. Here's what I'm dealing with.

    We've got an electronic sign that, if attached to the glass, would be a clear violation of the sign ordinance that I'm asking for adoption on November 9th. It's got flashing and scrolling text. As it's written, as long as it touches the interior glass, it's a sign. Off the glass and it becomes a display and not regulated by this ordinance.

    I've got a Main Street manager that is screaming about this issue. It's clearly a sign, designed and built as such, no matter how far off the glass it is.

    Two questions:

    1. How far inside a window does something in your community have to be to cease being a sign?

    2. Do any of you have any language giving a code enforcement officer to authority to regulate window displays that are clear attempts at an end run around the sign ordinance?

    Thanks in advance for any advice you may have.
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    I can tell you that nothing brings out the small business folks more than sign regulations. If it's in a window I would say don't regulate it... period. Regulate things on buildings but leave window displays alone, if solely for this reason. There will always be loopholes around this issue and you'll always be fighting it. Pretty soon you'll be getting into directional placement inside stores, what can/cannot be shown through displays, etc. It's an uphill battle and one I would leave alone. The community leadership is pretty good about telling business owners what is and is not acceptable by virtue of sales so I'd leave this one alone.

    Sorry!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    See if the police chief will help you. Window "displays" can significantly interfere with law enforcement observation. And boards listen to a gun and a badge more than to planners.

    Otherwise, what stroskey said.

  4. #4
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Don't die on the sword on this one. Not worth it.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    My suggestions would be to look at strengthening your ordinance - but leave this guy alone for now (especially if the Main Street director is yelling about it).

    -- include a statement in your definition of sign that anything intended to be visible from the exterior of the building constitutes a sign

    --you could consider a transparency percentage on windows to ensure they aren't blocked with signs (in front of glass, painted on glass, or behind the glass)

    --you could also have a one foot or two foot rule - any signage within one or two feet of a window is considered signage.

    Sign enforcement is probably the least favorite part of my job -- although we have code officers that do the front line stuff, the problems always fall on my desk to resolve and how things get resolved always comes down to the political climate of the municipality. Some communities love sign regs and will back you up in enforcement. Others take a more libertarian view -- and those are the communities in which you almost can't properly enforce a sign ordinance.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I was just having sign flashbacks....remember how much crud got thrown at me in the last fair community we both lived in when I (with the full backing of the Council) wrote a ticket to a certain grocery store that refaced their seriously non-conforming sign (like, non-conforming as of 45 years ago....a 30 foot pole sign) without a permit and permission from the Plan Commission? This was also after working with them for six months on a design for a conforming sign and offering them a grant for half the cost.

    Do you remember the PETITION signed by 500 people basically saying I was a sign "nazi" and that I'm killing small business? (and probably cute kittens, too) And, then, the bumper sticker campaign that followed?

    Good times!! Try to avoid that, would you?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    IIRC Highland Park IL has pretty specific definitions for "window signs" and "window displays" you might want to check out their sign code which is online.

    I can agree more with the comments regarding the difficulty of sign enforcement. If there's one thing I'll enjoy after retirement it's that I will never again have to try and mediate between the "FREE enterprise" and "aesthetic nanny" factions of a community.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Window signs are exempt here.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    -- include a statement in your definition of sign that anything intended to be visible from the exterior of the building constitutes a sign

    --you could also have a one foot or two foot rule - any signage within one or two feet of a window is considered signage.
    I found a copy of my old city's ordinance this morning and rewrote the sign definition like this. In the process, I took out the sign buffer language, which means the only interpretation that has to be made is whether a sign is intended for the customers inside (not regulated) or the pedestrians outside (regulated). It does specifically exempt merchandise displays.

    The Main Street manager in question said it was fine. Sure do wish that this issue had come up before, not two weeks before the city council's second reading. My agency has only been working on this for five years!
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    May 2009
    Location
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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    Window sign or display?

    Coragus - I went through the same kind of thing here in the City of Calgary. We are preparing to re-write our sign rules and we had a number of issues come up with window signs. The biggest one that hit the local media was an art store in an industrial park covering all the windows in their bay with one big version of a Michaelangello painting (did I spell that right?). That was a joy to deal with - we ended up refusing his DP application - too big of a relaxation of the sign rules.

    Anyway - I was asked to come up with a review of the sign rules (in a historic context) and what the true intent was of our rules. Perhaps my report (in our context) may be helpful - as we cover off the idea of a sign hanging in a window versus window displays.

    The link to my report is here:
    http://www.calgary.ca/docgallery/BU/.../m2009_038.pdf

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Aug 2005
    Location
    Clearwater, FL
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    Oh, those pesky signs

    If it's visible off-site then it's a sign no matter how far back from the window it is.

    This is how the City of Clearwater defines a sign with a few other tidbits from the Code for good measure. This Code has been around for ten years, now.

    Sign means any surface, fabric, device or display which bears lettered, pictorial or sculptured matter, including forms shaped to resemble any human, animal or product designed to convey information to the public and is visible from an abutting property, public right-of-way, or body of water. For the purpose of this development code, the term "sign" shall include all structural members. A sign shall be construed to form a single unit. In cases where matter is displayed in a random or unconnected manner without organized relationship of the components, each such component shall be considered a single sign. Except for banner, flags, temporary and portable signs, all signs shall be permanently affixed to, and/or incorporated into, the sign cabinet, or building wall or other base material. All signs shall be constructed of materials designed to be permanent, withstand weather conditions, and shall have permanent supports appropriate for its size.


    Sign, window means any sign placed inside or upon a window facing the outside and which is intended to be seen from the exterior through a window or other opening. Window signs may be permanent or temporary with different requirements for each type of window sign.


    Section 3-1803. Prohibited signs.
    D. Except as provided in section 3-1806(B)(5), changeable message signs, except menu and time and temperature signs, on which the message changes more rapidly than once every six hours.
    E. Menu signs on which the message changes more rapidly than once every three hours.
    O. Signs that move, revolve, twirl, rotate, flash, including animated signs, multi-prism signs, floodlights and beacon lights except when required by the Federal Aviation Agency or other governmental agency.
    V. Time and temperature signs in which the message changes more rapidly than once every 15 seconds.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

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