St. Cloud debates banning portable signsby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
Portable signs are an inexpensive advertising option for many businesses. You know the kind, a black sign with bright neon letters.
In St. Cloud, city officials are considering banning the signs. Some residents think they're garish and don't reflect a positive view of the community. But small business owners are worried the ban will mean the end of their best method of advertising.
St. Cloud, Minn. — Division Street is St. Cloud's main drag, where commerce is king. The busy artery is home to restaurants, strip malls, car dealerships... and a lot of portable signs.
Within a few blocks you can see signs advertising limousine rental, a sale on paint and a special at a spa. The signs scream for attention. Their lettering is a neon rainbow of pinks, greens, yellows and reds.
They're eye catching for sure, but officials who are putting together a plan to improve the look of St. Cloud wonder if this is the best way to welcome visitors to the city. Matt Glaesman is St. Cloud's community planner.
"As we talk about building design standards and increased landscaping, are those kinds of portable signs consistent with the image we're wanting to achieve?" Glaesman asked.
According to Glaesman the idea for the portable sign ban has come up several times in the last five years as city officials and residents have worked on a new land development code. He admits talk of banning the signs has been controversial.
"You have half the community that thinks they just aren't attractive," Glaesman said. "And you have half the community that feels they are just essential to small business and the continued success of those businesses."
One of the people who sees value in these signs is Mike Jat, the owner of Mike's Deli. The deli is tucked in a strip mall on the west side of St. Cloud, out of sight of most traffic. But Jat said a portable sign on a nearby street has helped direct customers to his location.
"It does help a lot," Jat said. "I get a lot of customers just from looking at the sign."
Another reason Jat likes the portable sign is because it's affordable. He said that's important for any small business during tough economic times.
"This sign is going to allow us to have it for a whole month for like $130," Jat said. "If you think about it, advertising for a whole month on the radio is going to cost you thousands of dollars, but this sign here costs you only $130. So it is effective."
These signs may be effective, but a lot of people say they're just plain ugly.
Although that doesn't seem to bother shoppers in a St. Cloud parking lot where a nearby portable sign advertises a special at a tanning salon. One of them was Lance Pappenfus.
"I have no problem with it," Pappenfus said.
Pappenfaus admits the signs may be outrageously eye catching, but he doesn't think they should be cast out of the city.
"It catches peoples' attention that's for sure," Pappenfus said. "I don't think they need to ban them, there's no reason."
Another shopper, Carol Schmitz, agreed.
"They're not attractive," Schmitz said. "But they don't bother me. I really don't have an opinion about it."
As the city debates the aesthetics of portable signs, the city's community planner Matt Glaesman can cite another problem with the signs. He said they can pose a safety hazard.
"Often times we see these signs ending up in the public right of way itself or at a street intersections where it's blocking sight lines for vehicle movement. So it's a public safety concern as well," Glaesman said.
The St. Cloud city council will have the final say on the portable sign ban. It's also considering other measures such as landscaping to improve the overall look of the city.
- Morning Edition, 06/09/2008, 7:50 a.m.