Eau Claire Sign Ordinance
Posted: August 3, 2007
I remember when the City of Eau Claire sign ordinance was altered about 15 years ago. Business owners at the time were apprehensive about the new city-mandated legislation. Now, city officials are poised to make some changes to the sign code that I am sure some business owners will again find troublesome.
It is much more affordable today to purchase signage that acts as an electronic billboard. Consequently, the City of Eau Claire is trying to curb the influx of electronic message signage. It appears that city officials are willing to "grandfather" in the existing electronic signage that may scroll and/or flass messages as motorists pass by. However, the proposed changes to the sign code will require businesses that erect a new sign to not flash any messages more than one time within a 60-second time period.
I would not like to be the owners of the new proposed water park at Action City in Eau Claire if the sign ordinance changes are approved. If you have ever driven by Wisconsin Dells, you have certainly witnessed the electronic message boards that remind travelers about the opportunities for family entertainment. It would frustrate me as a business owner of a family-fun center if I was harnessed by my ability to advertise to interstate traffic about a new attraction that could bring thousands of dollars into the community.
I have witnessed at least seven electronic message boards from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation within the Eau Claire city limits that changes its messages every few seconds. Whether it be a warning about a pending lane change or alternate route, the government apparently does not believe that a scrolling message is detrimental to the safety of drivers. As Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob McCoy told me, "Why would it be o.k. for the government to allow message boards that change every few seconds and not make the same allowance for business? "
Personally, I am in favor of placing a cap on the number of electronic message centers within a certain space. I do not know what the maximum number of electronic signs in a given area should be, but I think it is good that the city council and planning commission waited to implement the changes until the business community has been heard.
You may be affected by changes to the existing sign ordinance. If you do not provide any input to the city or the chamber of commerce, don't complain if your business suffers from the changes that may be enacted.