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Planners ask for sign moratorium

St. Croix County planners are asking for a six-month moratorium on permanent outdoor signs to give the county time to review and rewrite its 30-year-old standards.

Existing rules aren't adequate to deal with many requests for signs along new four-lane sections of Hwys. 64 and 35, said Planner Ellen Denzer Monday. She said current law nearly prohibits billboards.

"Our sign section is as old as the (zoning) ordinance," said Denzer. "A lot of things have happened in St. Croix County since the 1970s."

Plans are to develop new standards that are "more in line with laws, court cases and rules out there," she said.

Current county law generally allows off-premises signs only in business and industrial districts. Those signs may not exceed 200-square ft.

Signs of up to 32-square ft. are allowed by special exception in other districts and are allowed "only to direct attention to properties or services not visible from the road in question."

The moratorium will give the county and towns time to revise standards without the distraction of dealing with ongoing sign requests, said Denzer.

She said the town of Somerset has asked the county to review the sign rules and the town of Troy has already written a letter in support of the moratorium.

"It gives us time to really look at it," said Denzer.

The Planning and Zoning Committee will talk about the moratorium when it meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Government Center in Hudson, but the freeze wouldn't go into effect unless approved by the County Board.

Denzer said the next step would be to revise a rough draft of an ordinance section amendment that was prepared several years ago, taking current state regulations and case law into account.

Then the committee would hold informational meetings, followed by possible revisions, followed by public hearings, followed by a recommendation to the County Board, which has final authority to amend ordinances.

Denzer said the goal is to have the sign amendments in place by May or June.