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Electronic message boards OK'd for advertising use

But city still considering use of outdoor displays

Sept. 19, 2012

The Brookfield Common Council said "yes" to flashy advertisements Tuesday, approving the use of electronic message boards in freestanding signs, but held off on two other measures pertaining to whether retailers can display merchandise outdoors.

Both issues - electronic signs and outdoor displays - center on balancing business owners' need to draw in customers with the city's need to maintain an appealing atmosphere.

In a 10-2 vote with one abstention, the council agreed to allow static message boards - no flashing or strobe effects - smaller than half the surface area of the sign. It also said the messages on such boards can change no more often than once an hour.

While the message boards can be incorporated into two-sided signs, they cannot be installed on signs attached to a wall or building.

Aldermen Bill Carnell and Renee Lowerr voted against the measure.

Carnell pointed out that the city bans neon signs and said he feels electronic messages are ugly and garish in comparison.

"A neon sign, to me, is a work of art. This (electronic message board) is hideous. I don't think it fits well with Brookfield," Carnell said.

Lowerr said the advertisements would be a distraction, and difficult to regulate.

Aldermen Bob Reddin, Gary Mahkorn and Scott Berg disagreed, saying electronic message boards are evidence of the progress of technology and will increase sales at local businesses.

"I'd be surprised ... if sales didn't double the next day," Berg said.

Alderman Rick Owen abstained from voting, and Alderman Buck Jurken was absent from the meeting.

The council also tabled two related amendments regarding the outdoor sale and display of products at grocery stores and other commercial retailers in the city.

The Plan Commission had recommended an ordinance that would specify that grocery stores and produce stands are allowed to display produce and products outside their stores, but which excluded other retailers from such permission. The proposed amendment would allow these retailers to get a permit to perform "sidewalk sales," which would last for no more than three days at a time and allow stores to display items outside.

Several members of the community spoke in protest.

Paula Moylan, owner of the Urban Upcycle, 2863 N. Brookfield Road, and her landlord, David Marcello, said displaying clothes outside the store attracts a lot of additional business and this practice should be continued to keep the area unique.

"I get a lot of positive feedback," Moylan said. "People come by on their bikes and walk by all the time."

Alderman Daniel Sutton pointed out that the ordinance does not cover certain storefronts, including those such as Moylan's that would display clothing. He felt sidewalk sales, which could be held only three times a year for an owner, were too restrictive as well. As such, he motioned to table the amendments and ordinance until a more complete document could be drafted.

"My concern is all the people doing other things that this doesn't cover," Sutton said. "I'd like to see an all-encompassing ordinance."

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