The Waunakee Plan Commission spent much of its meeting Monday considering proposed signs for new buildings throughout the community and weighing revisions to its overall sign ordinance to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Signs for the Lamphouse Apartments, Madison and Main apartment complex and the new public library all received approvals, but the decision on one of three signs for the new Festival Foods grocery store was delayed until commissioners could learn more about it.
Festival Foods, to be located on the west side of Hwy. Q just south of Woodland Drive, is seeking a billboard sign, along with a sign for its wine, beer and spirits department. Both comply with Waunakee’s standards.
But a third sign, on what a representative called a retaining wall, raised flags with the commission and village staff.
“It doesn’t appear to be a retaining wall,” said Kevin Even, Waunakee’s public works director. “It looks to me to be monument sign.”
Even noted that commission has been strict about prohibiting such signs within the Kilkenny Farms commercial areas, rejecting requests from Dean Clinic, 1st Choice Dental and other businesses.
Attorney Bryan Kleinmaier added that the commissioners “need to treat everybody the same.”
Forward Development Group, now in the process of developing the east side of Hwy. Q where a HyVee grocery store is planned, has also been told that monument signs are not allowed.
“If you approve it [Festival Food’s sign request], you will have to allow HyVee a monument sign,” Kleinmaier added.
Other businesses within the Kilkenny Farms development could also then request monument signs and the commission would have no grounds to deny them.
The Festival Foods representative noted that the retaining wall was part of the architectural feature, but Even asked where the drop off was necessitating the wall.
Jason Valerius, a planning consultant for the village, said he concurred that the feature is not a retaining wall.
“What’s the purpose of this wall?” Even asked. “Usually, when you have a wall, it’s a safety issue.”
Village President and Plan Commissioner Chris Zellner said he would rather have a sign than just a plain wall.
Kleinmaier responded that if the commission approves the sign on the basis that it is on a retaining wall, HyVee will find a reason to have a retaining wall with signage as well.
The commission approved the first two signs and directed staff to follow up with Festival Foods to learn more about the third sign.
After some discussion and a public hearing, the commission approved an exception to its ordinances allowing a 30-square-foot blade sign for the Lamphouse Apartments. Dan Yoder of Sign Art Studio also presented a concept for the tenant signs above the ground floor businesses.
The 30-foot sign exceeds the village’s restriction of 20 square feet.
Waunakee resident Linda Ashmore urged the commission to approve the 20-square-foot sign, which would comply with the ordinance and the comprehensive plan for the downtown historic district.
“It’s kind of like you have rules, but you don’t have rules,” Ashmore said.
Valerius recommended the 30-foot sign, saying the applicant had considered both a 20-foot and 40-foot size. The 30-foot was not excessive, he said.
“That part of the ordinance really doesn’t make sense to me,” Valerius added. “It should be based on how it relates to the building.”
Also at issue was the brightness of the sign. The commission recommended the sign be installed with a dimmer, and gave village staff the authority to determine the appropriate brightness.
Sign ordinance changes
Plan commissioners also took no action on proposed revisions to the sign ordinance meant to bring it in compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting restrictions on free speech.
The ordinance would have added language to make it consistent with the state of Wisconsin’s election laws, Kleinmaier explained, but asked the commissioners if they would like to limit the number of yard signs and the length of time they can be displayed.
Zellner noted that village officials have heard no public input on the matter.
Public hearings will be held on any proposed ordinance, Kleinmaier said, adding that the village may need to contemplate reevaluating its entire sign code.
“The rules that were adopted in the 1990s may not apply to 2020,” Kleinmaier said.
The Supreme Court ruling left room for challenges, and many municipalities are struggling to revise their codes.
“There’s not an attorney that will tell you you’re good now,” Kleinmaier said. “This is a bear of an issue.”
Zellner asked for examples of other municipal sign ordinances for the commission to review before moving forward.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission:
-approved a conditional use permit to allow outdoor patio service for Boston’s Pizza, which is slated to open at the end of September at Water Wheel Drive and Hwy. Q. The number of parking stalls for the additional outdoor patio seating falls short of the requirement by 10. The owners noted that parking is available nearby, and that it’s expected customers will walk or bike from the neighborhood during fair weather when the patio is open. The village would retain the authority to require more stalls should they be needed. Village staff will also review the fencing around the patio area.
-approved a preliminary plat for the Arboretum Village subdivision at the corner of Hogan Road and Quinn Drive.
-approved a site plan for Quality Machining Inc. on Uniek Drive. Quality Machining seeks to build an addition for its existing building. The company would vacate one utility easement and build an additional water retention pond.