Town Board says no to more billboards on State 57

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – They may be all right with the state of Wisconsin, but they’re not with the town of Plymouth.

The town’s Board of Adjustments Tuesday turned down a variance request from Ray Ten Pas to erect two new billboards on the east side of State 23 between County C and State 23.

The proposed 14-foot by 48- foot single pole signs failed to meet the town’s spacing requirements, which says billboards must be at least 1,000 feet apart.

Ten Pas appeared before the board to plead his case, pointing out that the proposed locations for the signs fell within state guidelines for billboards along state highways, which require 300 feet between billboards.

“I think your spacing requirement is a little overly restrictive,” Ten Pas stated.

He also pointed out that there are currently billboards along State 57 south of County C which are closer together than the 1,000- foot standard, including a digital billboard that was installed just a few years ago.

“Nobody’s complaining about that spacing,” Ten Pas stated.

Several board members responded that they were not on the Board of Adjustments when those signs were approved.

“I’m concerned about safety,” board member Marvin Paulson commented. He noted that the pro- posed billboards would be within a stretch of less than a mile of State 57 that also includes three traffic lights, plus another light on State 57 a mile south of County C at County PP and the existing billboards on State 57 between County PP and County C.

“The more billboards you put up, the less attention people are going to pay to their driving,” Supervisor Gene Blindauer commented.

Ten Pas pointed out that the signs also met state setback requirements from the points on State 23 where the roadway widens for turn lanes and that state regulations do not address any required distance from traffic lights.

“It’s kind of ironic that you have a stipulation of the distance from a lane widening but not stop-and-go lights, which I think would be a greater distraction,” board member Othmar Jetzer commented.

Responding to a question of whether he would consider just one sign in the stretch between County C and State 23, Ten Pas replied that the cost would be too great for just one sign.

Town Clerk Laura Raeder read a letter from Plymouth City Administrator Brian Yerges citing a city ordinance which would mandate the removal of the billboards if the property should be annexed to the city in the future.

Property owner Mark Kleinhans noted that it is highly unlikely that the land will be annexed to the city any time in the near future. He urged approval of the signs, saying they would be crucial to bringing people into the city of Plymouth.

Developer Hans Rose, who owns land on the opposite side of State 57 from the proposed billboards, agreed.

“If you don’t approve these signs, it’s going to be harder and harder for new businesses to advertise and get customers,” Rose predicted.

The Board of Adjustments voted 4-1 to deny the variance, with several members noting that variances are only meant to be granted in cases of hardship and they could not find a hardship in this instance.

Rose appealed to the Town Board to overturn the decision, but Town Chairman Jim Lubach pointed out that the Board of Adjustments’ decision is final and cannot be overturned by the Town Board.

“Then you need a new board (of adjustments),” Rose responded.

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