Milton chamber seeks updates for road signs
MILTON The reality: Once the Highway 26 bypass is finished next year, the 16,000 vehicles a day that funnel through Milton's east side will skirt a mile east around the city, according to state estimates.
The challenge: City business stakeholders are forging a marketing plan to funnel some of that traffic off the bypass and into the city's east- and west-side business districts.
A large part of the plan involves roadside advertising and directional signs at key "entryway" spots on Highway 26 and the Highway 59 corridor, business leaders said.
The dilemma: The city's sign code doesn't make it easy for businesses to place directional signs along roads, Milton business leaders say.
In fact, sources said, city rules don't specifically allow businesses to place "off-premises" directional signs along roads. In most cases, having single or group roadside signs off site requires a conditional-use permit, according to city code.
Christina Slaback, executive director of the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, said the chamber is putting together a task force to plan how it could use state and potentially city roadside signs to draw potential customers off the bypass.
Plans are for the group to meet biweekly for the next two months to study where it could best place state directional "blue signs" at the future junction of Highway 26 and Highway 59 to show motorists how to reach Milton businesses.
The group also wants to study the possibility and costs of offsite business signs within the city that would serve the same purpose.
"What we want to be able to do is direct people to our two downtowns. We want them to know they can get off before the bypass to frequent our businesses," Slaback said.
One of the group's main goals is to coax the city's plan commission to ease regulations for roadside signs, she said.
"It (the code) doesn't allow 'off-site advertising' in terms of signage out in highway entryways. It's not allowed," Slaback said.
Slaback said City Administrator Jerry Schuetz has been working with the chamber of commerce to push a review of the sign code to make it "a little more flexible and a little more business friendly."
Officials haven't had much luck, however, getting the ideas through the plan commission, she said.
In the past, Slaback said, city officials have been reluctant to tweak city sign rules for businesses.
"The city of Milton's been very proactive with much of its planning for this bypass," Slaback said. "But the sign considerations, I don't think they've had the same diligence there."
City code says the rules are in place to avoid an unsightly overabundance of signs and curb visual distractions to motorists.
By January, the task force seeks to have ready a proposal for business signs that it can take to the plan commission for review, Slaback said.
"It's gentle pressure lightly applied," Slaback said. "Once they see the overall concept, they might be a little more open because this is going to be a good thing for the community to route in traffic, consumers and customers."