Friendlier sign ordinance at top of agenda

DANVILLE — After requiring businesses to remove all their temporary signs earlier this year in an effort to make the city look better, Danville city officials are now proposing changes to make the sign ordinance more business-friendly while still addressing appearance issues.

Danville aldermen will decide Tuesday night whether to require 30-day permits along with a $10 fee for temporary advertising signs as part of several proposed changes to the city's temporary sign ordinance. The city council meets at 6 p.m. at the municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville.

In the spring, the city sent letters to most businesses in the city telling them to remove all their temporary signs or they would be fined.

After protests from some business owners, the city allowed temporary signs — those made of cloth, canvas, cardboard, wall board or similar materials — and instead began considering changes to its ordinance.

Alderman Bill Black said he wants the city to look nice, too, and he's not empathetic to the chronic violator who puts a sign in the right-of-way or lets a sign become torn or tattered. But he wants the city to be as consistent and fair as possible to businesses in regard to these sign changes. He said he also questions why there's a fee associated with certain temporary signs.

"If we don't have any businesses here, we don't have to worry about signs," Black told the city's planning and zoning commission, which approved of the proposed temporary sign changes that aldermen will vote on.

The city's proposed changes include requiring businesses to pay $10 for a 30-day permit for any temporary advertising sign, defined as a sign with a message advertising a product or service.

Businesses would be limited to two per lot, and each sign can be displayed for up to 90 days. Other types of temporary signs, like those promoting community events or organizations, will not require a permit or be charged a fee.

Gary Knight, who owns Carmack Car Capital, 3724 N. Vermilion St., Danville, and Napa, 303 N. Gilbert St., Danville, said sometimes a sign is the only thing a business has to get customers through the door. He said whatever policy the city considers in regard to temporary signs needs to be business-friendly.

"It's how we attract customers and run our businesses," he said.

Knight said owners are trying to run their businesses and make payroll and have more important things to worry about than when a sign was put up and when it needs to be removed. He said he questions how easy the ordinance will be to police, keeping track of when every business advertising sign is put up and removed.

Knight said he would rather the city handle the problem on a case-by-case basis, visiting or a calling a business that has a worn or tattered sign or one in the right of way, making the business aware of the problem and requiring the sign's removal.

Lorrie Pearson, land development manager with Champaign, said that city requires permits and has fees for temporary signs, but the permits are required for multiple types of sign content, including community events, and not just for business advertising. She said the city also has time limits for temporary signs, and city staff are able to police it although it's not necessarily the number one priority.

She said if city personnel notice a sign violation, they notify the person that it needs to be taken down, but the city is so active with enforcement to the point of knocking on the door the day after a sign permit expires.

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