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Janesville City Council expands area where signs can go up

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
September 16, 2011
— People paying attention to a discussion about electronic message signs and their locations in residential areas might wonder how the city can put temporary electronic message signs near homes.

The answer: The ordinance doesn't apply to the city.


The Janesville City Council on Monday changed an ordinance to broaden the area where electronic signs are permitted.


Signs now are allowed in residential areas if they are at least 500 feet from homes and have conditional use permits.


Conditional-use permits aren't required for churches and the city.


That's why the city can put up a temporary sign to advertise events such as the upcoming Pooch Fest in Palmer Park on Saturday, for instance.


The ordinance change was necessary so Rotary Gardens officials could apply for a conditional-use permit to erect an electronic message sign along Palmer Drive.


The city ordinance before did not allow anyone in residential and conservancy areas, which would include many parks, to even apply for a conditional-use permit from the plan commission.


The majority of the city is in residential and conservancy areas, Gale Price of the community development department told the city council Monday.


Electronic message signs are becoming standard in urban areas, but the city recognizes the impact on residential areas, Price said.


That doesn't mean the plan commission will OK all requests for conditional-use permits, he said.


The council unanimously approved the ordinance change. Councilwoman Deb Dongarra-Adams was absent.


The ordinance continues to exempt noncommercial signs on the public's behalf and by order of a government unit, Price said. That includes safety signs and signs welcoming people to the city.


The sign that advertises Pooch Fest in Palmer Park along Racine Street is a portable electronic message sign, similar to those used to alert motorists of roadwork. Homes are within 500 feet.


"We use that sign for all kinds of messages, including the 'Big Give' Food Drive to convey messages to the public in the public's behalf," Price said.


Proceeds from Pooch Fest are used to make improvements to Paw Print Park.


Businesses would not be able to erect temporary electronic message signs—advertising a sale, for instance—because business advertising is different than messages from a public entity, he said.


Nonprofits also need permits.



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