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Thread: Temporary Sign Alternatives

  1. #1
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Temporary Sign Alternatives

    Like many Canadian (or at least Prairie) communities, St. Albert is losing the battle with temporary readerboard signs. I'm wondering if any of you work or live in communities that have banned readerboards in favor of more permanent solutions. It seems like a lot of solutions (like allowing temporary signs for 90 days in a calendar year) are difficult to track/enforce with a small enforcement staff...

    Believe it or not, the example I heard first was from Texas... some town called Sugar Land that has banned all temporary signs but allows readerboards in masonry frames, etc. I have found their code, but no pictures of the town. Anyone know of this place and how it's working out?

    These are the awful looking things I'm talking about (note, the college spelled Excel wrong... hee!):

  2. #2
    We ban all portable signs, such as sandwich boards and those temporary changeable copy signs (like those pictured). You can have changeable copy or electronic messagebords, but they must be part of a permanent sign. If someone wants a temporary sign, they can pull a permit for two, non-consecutive 15-day periods per year.

    Details can be found in our sign code:

    http://www.glendale-wi.org/ordinances/title15.pdf

    It starts on p58
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Ban the sob's if you can. No other regulation works. Permanent reader boards are, in essense, permitted free standing signs--other than the message content. Perhaps a community shouldn't care what the sign says, so long as it is otherwise to code. I could not ban them here, 'cause I would run poor Walt out of business.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    we just went through this battle. Our by-law permits them, provided they are on the same property as the business that they advertise. We went from having 85 signs on 50 parcels to having almost none when we informed the owners politely that they were breaking the law. We are now in the process of redrafting our sign provisions as our lawyer feels they may be unconstitutional. (ie we are regulating what is said on the sign and not the sign as a structure.) We will probably end up banning them.

    For other canadian examples look for by-laws in southern ontario, when I was there last summer I barely saw any in small communities.

    Oh, and we had the you'll put so and so out of business.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    If there's one thing that can be said about the visual environment of the US versus Canada, it's that there are far, far fewer portable signs south of the border.

    That wasn't always the case, though. Portable signs were a hot-button topic among planners in the United States about 10 to 15 years ago. I remember dealing with it first hand during my first job, and it wasn't pretty.

    Considering US civil law, American planners were advised to pursue one of the following four policies:

    1) Allow businesses to display portable signs in addition to permanent signs on a year-round basis. Few places pursued this option; El Paso, Texas was one, and it shows.

    2) Allow portable signs to be used in lieu of a permanent freestanding sign.

    3) Allow businesses to exceed sign area requirements for a few limited periods a year, with portable signs being one of the permitted dispay types.

    At my first place of employment, we had a combination of #2 and #3. No permanent freestanding sign? Use a portable year 'round, but displayed subject to all the conditions that apply to permanent freestanding signs re: setback, electrical connections, and so on. Have a freestanding sign? You can display a portable, but only with a termporary sign permit, and only for four one-week periods in a year.

    What happened? Portable signs eventually fell out of favor of area businesses, because they weren't effective. A portable wasn't drowned out by clutter from other potables, but nobody's stopping by for the $7 haircut special ... it just wasn't worth it. When nobody is renting portable signs, the political climate that's required to ban such signs is much more hospitable.

    Finally, there's ...

    4) Ban 'em entirely. I think it would be safe to say that the vast majority of municipalities in the United States now ban portable signs; the only places where you really still see them are in rural and "rednecky" environs, and in places where portable sign company owners are politically connected (coughBuffalocough).

    Anyhow, the trend in the US over the past couple of decades has been to ban 'em. The ban has to be carefully justified, over permitting their use in lieu of a permanent freestanding sign ... you just can't say "no," but you can require that all freeestanding signs must be on a permanent monument-style base built of the same materials as the host structure of the site, limit freestanding signs to those approved during a formal site plan approval only, or limit the items of information (words, logos, graphic elements) on a sign with the goal of aesthetic simplicity and traffic safety.

    Of the places were I've lived ...

    Buffalo metro -- far less common in the city than in the past, still around in the 'burbs as temporary displays only, very common on the Canadian side of the Niagara River.

    Las Cruces, New Mexico -- once common but not prolific; now relatively uncommon except by a few madre y padre-type businesses, used in lieu of a permanent sign.

    Denver metro -- portable signs were nonexistent.

    Orlando metro -- portable signs were nonexistent, except in a few outlying communities with a Southern cultural orientation.

    Kansas City metro -- portable signs are nonexistent, from what I've seen so far.

    Sugar Land is unusual for Texas ... it has fairly tough sign and architectural design regulations, in a state where aesthetics usually takes a back seat to ... well, just about everything. Check out the suburbs of San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, Charlotte, Washington, and Raleigh for some good "wish we had that here" type sign regulations.

  6. #6

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    We completely ban them in Fairfield, CA. However, we do allow temporary banners-hung on the main building-for sixty days per year. We started getting tough a few years ago, and now we no longer have the burger chains with multiple roof banners festooning the buildings.

    It also seems that Herbalife is giving up. Our sign spam has dropped off dramatically. (Maybe collecting and destroying the "Work from Home "signs from roadsides periodically helped, too.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    From the work I have done in downtowns, I would suggest that if you do an outright ban, you still permit certain types of signs in the downtown (pedestrian) districts. What I have in mind are the A-frame signs often used to post restaurant menus and the like.

  8. #8

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    We ban all portable signs, including the small A-frame or sandwich board signs.

    We also restrict the changeable copy to no more than 50% of the sign area in permanent signs.

    One of our constant code enforcement problems is the smaller sandwich board signs. There is a move afoot to make them legal in certain instances.

  9. #9

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    I knew one Idaho planner who periodically drive around town, dumped all the portable signs he could find in a big city truck and hauled them away. That was effective! But I want to agree with Mike S. An outright ban is the best solution everywhere except downtown (or other special shopping areas). Unless you have unusually narrow sidewalks in your downtown, sandwich signs, banners, etc. can be used to add some color and vitality (and to give locations downtown one minor advantage over those on the strip). If you are paranoid about the quality, write a by-law permitting them only in accord with an overall downtown standard and see if your merchants will step up to the plate and agree on such a standard.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I have heard of some communities where the chamber of commerce or main street organization makes and sells the sign boards, so they comply with the code, and the organization makes a few bucks.

  11. #11
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    From the zoning code that I wrote last year ....


  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    That's great, Dan. Did you really include that as an illustration in the code?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I'm wondering if he added the letters "MULLETS" on that one sign. I've seen so much photoshop doctoring here, that I'm never sure anymore.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    We ban them except for grand openings (60 days) and new residential developments (can use banners, streamers and such but each one has to be on a separate standard embedded in the ground that's not more than 12 feet high.

    =Bob

  15. #15
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    That's great, Dan. Did you really include that as an illustration in the code?
    It's actually in the code!

    The "MULLETS" is Photoshopped in. There's plenty of inside jokes in the illustrations.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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