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High school denied lighted message sign

The Hudson Plan Commission on a 3-2 vote recommended against revising the city's sign ordinance to allow Hudson High School to erect an electronic message sign on Vine Street.

Opposing the school district's request to allow message signs in residential districts were Plan Commission chairman Jack Breault and commissioners Don Mailloux and Bob Bieraugel. Commissioners Don Gilbert and Carah Koch favored amending the ordinance to allow message signs in residential districts upon approval of a conditional use permit for the sign. Commissioners Tim Caruso and Fred Yoerg were absent from the Dec. 9 meeting.

The purpose of the bank-style sign, Hudson High School Vice Principal Scott Huffman told commissioners, would be to inform the public of the district's many activities.

In a Sept. 20 letter to Community Development Director Dennis Darnold requesting permission to erect the sign, Huffman said, "We think this would be a great service to the community without causing any disruptions to the surrounding area."

At the Dec. 9 meeting, Huffman noted that 2,000 to 3,000 people visit the high school each day, including students, teachers, guests and people attending after-school activities. Also, many motorists and pedestrians pass by the school, he said.

Huffman presented an illustration of the proposed 14-foot tall sign at the Dec. 9 meeting. He said the electronic message board area would be 26 inches high by eight or 10 feet wide, with space for the school's name and logo above it.

The current city ordinance permits electronic message signs only in central business and general business districts. Hudson High School is located in a residential district.

Breault said churches and other schools might request message signs, too, if the high school was granted one. He also said he had received calls from residents opposed to having a lighted sign nearby.

District 4 Alderman Roger Riedel questioned the need for the sign and said it would be a distraction at the heavily traveled intersection of Vine and Wisconsin streets.

Commissioner Mailloux also questioned the need for the sign and expressed concern that it would generate requests for more electronic signs.

Commissioner Gilbert said he wasn't opposed to the sign even though it might be visible from his residence. It would be a good vehicle for keeping the general public informed of school activities, he said.

The City Council has the ultimate authority to amend ordinances. It is rare for the council to go against a recommendation of the Plan Commission, however.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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