Businesses notified they have until March 15 to remove them or face fines
DANVILLE — The owner of Carmack Car Capitol says the city's request that businesses remove their temporary signs by March 15 or be fined is an unnecessary distraction for business owners who have more important issues, like dealing with a tough economy.
Gary Knight said these signs are a part of how local business owners operate. When businesses have a sale or special promotion, they want to let people know about it, said Knight, who received one of the more than 80 letters the city sent to Danville businesses in the last week stating that temporary signs are illegal and must be removed by March 15 or the business would be fined by the city.
"Our business people in this community don't need these distractions," he said.
Knight's letter from the city included pictures of four temporary "banner" signs on his property, including one in front along North Vermilion Street advertising "Financing for Everyone," and three others hanging on buildings at the car dealership at 3724 N. Vermilion St. Knight said he has had some of the signs for years, and it has never been a problem.
City administration officials said the banner signs are a violation of city ordinances, which allow temporary signs but only under certain circumstances that limit size and length of time they can be displayed. According to city officials, this is an effort to beautify the community, because some of the signs are left up so long that they get worn and tattered or even break loose from their attachments.
None of Knight's signs are in that condition, however, and Knight said two are hardly visible from Vermilion Street and on the side of buildings. One of those two directs customers to the certified pre-owned area on the lot.
"It's just a directional banner. It's been there for years," he said.
City inspector Steve Sochotsky said 86 letters were sent Feb. 27-28 to businesses mostly along the main thoroughfares, Vermilion, Gilbert and Main streets. He said those are the streets where people coming into the community would get a first impression of Danville.
Sochotsky said there are additional signs that have been identified since the initial mailing, so about 10 more letters will be going out around March 11, and those businesses will have until April 5 to remove the signs.
The city's ordinances allow for various types of temporary signs, including banners as well as political, construction, real estate and community event signs. The ordinance spells out size and length of display restrictions for each type of sign.
For banner signs, the ordinance allows only one in front of a business or lot. They can be wall or fence-mounted or displayed between two poles, and in addition to size restrictions, banners cannot be displayed for longer than 120 days in any calendar year.
The ordinance also includes the following language about condition: "Any temporary sign which becomes torn, broken, tattered, mutilated, defaced, damaged, deteriorated or otherwise falls into disrepair shall be deemed a nuisance and such sign shall be immediately removed or replaced."
Alderman Steve Foster, Ward 7, has raised the issue of banner signs at city council meetings in the past, but he said his issue was only with signs that are tattered, broken loose and blowing around or that are close to streets, creating a hazard to drivers who can't see around them when pulling onto a street.
"They went way too far in enforcing the ordinance. I don't want these signs eliminated," said Foster, who reiterated that the signs he was making reference to were in poor condition or created a hazard to drivers.
Knight said he agrees that if a banner sign looks bad or is a safety issue, something should be done.
"But a banner on the side of a building, I don't think that's going to hurt the aesthetics of North Vermilion," he said.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said this is about appearance of the city, and there's no question that the use of temporary signs throughout the community, all kinds, not just banners, has increased in recent years. He said the city has received several complaints from citizens about the number and nature of temporary signs in the city. So, in reviewing the city's ordinances on temporary signs, it was apparent that many of the temporary signs are not in compliance.
"And we also realize that the signage that's available today is different than the signage available when the ordinance was originally written. Some signs that exist today, which many might find appropriate, were not available then, and unfortunately perhaps, have been unnecessarily encompassed within the current definition of a temporary sign," he said. "What we have agreed to do is meet with different interested parties in small group discussions to determine whether or not revisions to the ordinance should be drafted, but understanding that, at the end of the day, we still want to maintain the integrity of the appearance of our community."
Alderman Bill Black, Ward 7, also requested that the issue be placed on the next city council agenda for a discussion. Eisenhauer said the issue will be on the agenda for March 19. He said city officials plan to meet with business owners and others in those small group discussions prior to that council meeting.
Black also wrote a letter to Eisenhauer after meeting with Knight on March 2 about the issue. In the letter, Black asks for the enforcement and any fines be stopped and the ordinance be immediately reviewed and an opportunity for the businesses to appeal be considered.
Foster said the city should delay action until the council can address this as a possible ordinance revision.
"I don't think anyone should have to take them down unless they are blowing out into the street or something," Foster said.