HUDSON -- The city approved an electronic messaging sign for the Hudson School District that was the source of concerns and criticisms from neighbors.
The sign will be placed outside the Hudson High School at the intersection of Vine and Wisconsin streets now that the city has approved the conditional-use permit.
The sign will be used to share school and community messaging. Superintendent Nick Ouellette said it is an opportunity to reach the 75% of community members who have no tie to the district and no regular communication with it.
The sign will not have any flashing lights, scrolling or animation.
The sign is a donation from the Education Foundation of Hudson. No tax dollars will be used for it, Ouellette said.
The Plan Commission approved the sign 7-0. Council Member Randy Morrissette II said the district has worked with the commission and city to address every issue.
Council Member Paul Deziel said he was concerned with safety, especially for young drivers. He requested that the time between messages be extended during the start and end of the school day.
Council Member Joyce Hall said she heard from constituents who are concerned about safety and the impact on the neighborhood.
Hall moved to deny the permit. City Attorney Nick Vivian said if the council were to deny the permit, it does have to give specific findings as to why. Hall cited the character and aesthetic of the community and concerns about safety as her findings for denial.
The move to deny the permit failed, with Hall and Council Member Sarah Bruch the only ones in favor.
Council Member Bill Alms said this is something that after time fades into the background. When it comes to safety, he said he is far more concerned about cellphones than he is about the sign.
Vivian explained the city has an ordinance that allows signs conditionally, so approving this one does not set a precedence for others.
The permit can be reviewed if there are safety concerns, complaints or other issues, Vivian said. If there is factual information to support it, the conditions can also be amended.
Jim Lutiger, who represents residents of the High Point neighborhood, said they are concerned about the safety and commercialization of the neighborhood. He said one real estate agent told him that his house would lose $50,000 in market value due to the sign and other lighting at the high school.
Bob Baumann, who lives on the other side of the high school, said the community has voted to have and keep the high school in that area. He walked by when the school put up a temporary sign to show what it would look like, and said it was less bothersome than the street lights.
Deziel said he appreciated neighbor’s concerns and their input on the issue, but ultimately for him the sign was a good community asset.
The permit was approved 4-2, with Hall and Bruch voting no. The sign will be reviewed six months after installation.