City headed toward July hearing on sign ordinance

The Park Rapids Planning Commission continues reviewing revised sign regulations with a public hearing on the proposed changes possibly as soon as July.

The Park Rapids Planning Commission continues reviewing revised sign regulations with a public hearing on the proposed changes possibly as soon as July.

According to city administrator Brian Weuve, scenic byway regulations and a recent court decision prompted the city to start looking at the city ordinance.

Highways 34 and 71 north are designated portions of the North Country Scenic Byway. Existing billboards will be grandfathered in, but no new off-premise billboards will be allowed.

The court ruling determined the city cannot govern content, only size, number and location of signs.

Public safety and aesthetics also are considerations.


An attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities reviewed the first draft of proposed changes and returned it with changes. The Planning Commission reviewed a second draft last week.

The ordinance addresses electronic variable message signs, but not electronic scrolling signs.

The intent of the proposed ordinance to prohibit off-premise signs of all types would apply to renting electronic variable messages to businesses off-site.

"If we're not allowing off-premise signs, it's not fair if we allow them on electronic message boards either," Weuve explained.

Members of the Planning Commission also discussed possible limits on the number of seconds between changes as a possible safety issue.

Weuve said the League has commissioned a study to be done on the effects of electronic flashing signs, including optimal timing and color.

Until the study is completed, chairman Dick Bradow suggested talking to business owners who currently uses the signs to find out what timing they're set at and why.

Some types of signs will be exempt with no permit required. Among them are postings at construction sites, on-premise signs (9 square feet or less), election signs (with some limitations), noncommercial flags, easel and sandwich board signs (one per lot) and some temporary signs.


Temporary signs may be placed for up to 30 days for on-site sales events. In some cases, portable signs are allowed for up to seven days four times a year, but only at the location of the sale or event.

In addition to off-premise signs, those prohibited include signs within a public right-of-way or easement, except signs installed by governmental entities; signs painted, attached or affixed to trees, rocks, utility poles, bridges, etc.; signs with rotating beam or flashing illuminations; rotating and shimmering signs, signs painted or attached to vehicles where the vehicle is parked for 48 hours or more; and signs on vacant or abandoned buildings.

Other provisions of the proposed ordinance are intended to keep signs proportional to building size, offer incentives for monument signs (as opposed to signs on pylons) and bring consistency among zoning districts.

A fee schedule remains to be set, but failure to obtain a sign permit when one is required will result in a double permit fee.

The proposed ordinance will be on the agenda at the June Planning Commission meeting with a possible public hearing in July.

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