City weighs rules for contractor project signs

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Contractors may soon be able to put up their signs at project sites in the city.

The common practice elsewhere has been banned in the city for several years, but the City Council Tuesday referred an ordinance that would allow it again to the Plan Commission.

Alderperson Shawn Marcom introduced the ordinance, saying, “I had a couple of folks talk to me about it. They asked whether it was unusual to have an ordinance that would not allow any (contractor) signs at all. To be business-friendly, we should let our local business people put a sign in your yard if, say, you’re getting your kitchen remodeled, as long as it’s not there too long.”

Alderperson Jack Fernsler noted that the ban had been put in place just a few years ago after complaints about the practice.

In particular, he cited the Vintage Neighborhood subdivision, where a number of houses were constructed at one time.

Contractors on the various projects in the subdivision placed all their signs on vacant lots along Pleasant View Road, rather than at their job sites, Fernsler recalled, creating what he called an unsightly clutter and nuisance.

“We didn’t have an ordinance regulating those signs and it was abused, so we cut them off clean,” Building Inspector Pete Scheuerman explained.

But, he added, since that time he has received “constant complaints” from contractors seeking to put up project signs.

Marcom’s proposal called for allowing signs up to 8 square feet in size at new construction, remodeling, repairing or renovation project sites. The signs would be permitted for up to 30 days after the project is completed.

Alderperson Jim Sedlacek had some concern about the latter provision.

“I think 30 days after (completion) is way too long,” he stated. “Just take a plumbing company that could come in to do a one-day project in my house. Their sign could stay up for 30 days. Our streets could be littered with them.”

Scheuerman suggested tying permission for a sign to the building permit for the project.

“Otherwise, a plumber could come and fix a leaky faucet in your house, put a sign in the ground and leave it there for 30 days,” he commented. “This could start to look like a (political) campaign season.”

City Attorney Crystal Fieber pointed out that it could be difficult to know exactly when some projects are completed to determine when the 30 day period when signs are still allowed would begin.

“You have to give some amount of time, whether it’s a day or 30 days, just so you have a point of reference for when they have to come down,” Scheuerman pointed out.

Sedlacek proposed amending the ordinance to change the period to 10 days after project completion before it went to the Plan Commission and his amendment was adopted.

Mayor Donald Pohlman, who sits on the Plan Commission, noted that the ordinance is not a finished product. He said he and Alderperson John Nelson, also a member of the commission, would pass on the council’s points to the commission.

He also pointed out that the ordinance will have a public hearing before the City Council, most likely at their Nov. 26 meeting, before it is finally adopted.

The council authorized Plymouth Utilities to begin the process of hiring a new finance manager.

Current Finance Manager Howard Bunkert is retiring Dec. 13, City Administrator Brian Yerges reported. “The utilities finance manager position is important for the city, so we’d like to move forward and start the hiring process,” Yerges told the council.

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