It appears that the North Mankato City Council has chosen to not defend in court its decision to grant a variance that would allow Holy Rosary Church to place a dynamic display sign in a residential area. In my opinion, that is a wise decision because granting that variance violated Minnesota law and the city’s own code. (A dynamic display sign is one that can be remotely programmed and which can rotate, flash, blink, display pictures, etc. with LED lighting.)
Instead, the council is proposing to change city code so that dynamic display signs will be allowed in all residential areas, with some restrictions. The restrictions basically reflect those that were included in the variance granted to Holy Rosary Church. Because changing city code will affect all residential areas in North Mankato, careful consideration should be given to the consequences of this change.
One restriction is that dynamic display signs in residential areas would only be allowed for non-commercial institutional use. However, there is no definition as to what constitutes a non-commercial institutional use. It has been suggested that it could include schools, churches, parks, playgrounds, and government buildings. A definition should absolutely be provided in city code before any vote is taken on this change, to ensure a clear understanding of what types of facilities may install dynamic display signs in residential areas.
As proposed, another restriction would allow signs up to 50 square feet, a size that seems excessive for a lit, changeable sign in residential areas. By comparison, in Neighborhood Business Districts, signs of any type are limited to 40 square feet for single occupant buildings.
The proposed amendment also has a restriction limiting the amount of time the signs can be lit each day, and how often their message can be changed. These features appear to indicate that the dynamic display signs will be used for advertising, which the applicant for the variance seemed to indicate was needed. Is advertising appropriate in residential areas?
Residents should carefully consider the consequences of allowing dynamic display signs in all residential areas, as schools, churches, parks, playgrounds, and government buildings exist in many residential areas in North Mankato.
The council will consider changing city code to allow dynamic display signs in all residential areas in a public hearing at their meeting Monday. The meeting will be 7 p.m. in City Hall. Residents must contact council members and/or attend the public hearing to voice the concerns they may have about this proposed change to city code. If there is no public input, this change will most likely be approved, and dynamic display signs will be allowed in all residential areas.
Could a dynamic display sign be coming to your neighborhood soon?
Barb Church is a North Mankato resident.