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Holiday Signs: Public Enemy #1

It has been mentioned on this site before how awful that Holiday sign is on I-35 at 27th Avenue West, but it bears repeating since it is pretty much the worst thing about Duluth, coming in just ahead of the Honking House and the fact that liquor stores can’t sell on Sundays (which is statewide, but so are the Holiday signs).

Well, I just noticed that the agenda for the Jan. 14 Duluth City Council meeting mentions that Councilor Jim Stauber will be introducing an ordinance regarding sign regulations that would seem, if I’m reading it right, to ban the Holiday sign.

[UPDATE: A closer reading of the resolution reveals that “legal, non-conforming signs are allowed to continue.” So Holiday couldn't put up more signs with bright outlines at its stores in Duluth that don't have them, but the ones that do have them could keep them.]

Here are the pertinent parts:

50-27.4 Illumination Standards
The following illumination standards apply to on-premises signs. Illumination of billboards (offpremises) are regulated separately in Section 50-27.7. Additional illumination requirements for electronic message signs are found in Section 50-27.7.

A. Any sign illumination, including gooseneck reflectors, external illumination and internal illumination, must be designed, located, shielded and directed to prevent the casting of glare or direct light upon roadways and surrounding properties, or the distraction of motor vehicle operators or pedestrians in the public right-of-way.

B. The sign face of internally illuminated signs must function as a filter to diffuse illumination. The sign face must cover all internal illumination components so that no exposed bulbs are visible.

C. All external illumination of a sign must concentrate the illumination upon the printed area of the sign face.

D. No sign illumination may exceed one (1) footcandle of illumination at the property line.

E. The use of neon lighting as a sign material or sign accent is permitted for signs within the mixed-use, form-based and special purpose districts, with the exception of the MU-N and MU-B Districts where it is prohibited. Neon lighting is subject to the following:

1. When lit, neon lighting must be continuously illuminated. Flashing neon is prohibited.

2. Neon lighting cannot be combined with any reflective materials (e.g., mirrors, polished metal, highly-glazed tiles, or other similar materials) that would cause glare and increase the spread of light.

3. Neon lighting to outline doors and windows is prohibited.

F. The use of LED lighting as a sign accent is permitted, subject to the following:

1. LED lighting as an accent is only permitted for non-residential uses in the mixeduse,
form-based and special purpose districts where electronic message center signs are permitted. LED accent lighting is prohibited in any residential district.

2. LED lighting as an accent must comply with all illumination requirements of an electronic message center sign.

3. The addition of LED lighting as an accent to an existing sign requires a zoning permit.

4. When lit, LED lighting must be continuously illuminated. Flashing LED is prohibited.

5. LED lighting cannot be combined with any reflective materials (e.g., mirrors, polished metal, highly-glazed tiles, or other similar materials) that would cause glare and increase the spread of light.

6. LED lighting to outline doors, windows, and automobile and filing station gas canopies is prohibited.

7. LED lighting to outline billboards, free standing monument signs, and free standing pole signs is prohibited.

Of course, I always fear that I might be misreading ordinance jibberish, and who knows if this will pass the council, so hold your hallelujahs for now. There might also be a clause in there that grandfathers in existing hideous signs rather than demanding their removal [which there is, as updated above]. So we’ll see.

Those of you who are willing to read the whole thing with a keen eye and enlighten us with your brilliance, please do. It’s resolution 12-070-O(b) on the agenda, which links to a PDF that is too big to load directly to PDD without messing with the file.

36 Comment(s)

  1. I dunno. I agree it’s garish and god awful, but I see it just for a few seconds every day crossing the bridge back home to Duluth. And I think businesses should be able to do whatever they need to, within reason, to make a profit. This signage seems reasonable to me, as bad as it is. On the other hand, Stauber is sponsoring this, so I guess that I’m missing something.

    emmadogs | Jan 8, 2013 | New Comment
  2. P.S. I thought the LED lights on the city Christmas tree were way more ugly than the holiday sign.

    emmadogs | Jan 8, 2013 | New Comment
  3. I’m all for businesses advertising, but those signs make me feel like I’m seeing everything blurry when I look at them. On the other hand, should we ever have a raging blizzard and you can’t see anything… I bet you could find a Holiday store to take shelter in!

    Dawn Marie | Jan 8, 2013 | New Comment
  4. I’m sure that’s what they are shooting for, Dawn — an illumination arms race in which the brightest light gets the business.

    By the way, I don’t know if we can really say Councilor Stauber is actually in favor of this, I think he just introduces all the items related to planning and development.

    The spirit of Emmadogs opinion is something I think most people can get behind, but the “within reason” part is wide open for debate. The fact that such a light is visible from bridges to Superior is one thing, but I think there might be astronauts who can point that Holiday sign out.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 8, 2013 | New Comment
  5. I like your list of what makes Duluth horrible, Paul.

    TimK | Jan 8, 2013 | New Comment
  6. I believe that I can see the sign on 27th ave W from the top of Thompson Hill around Boundary Ave. I would enjoy analysis of my opinion from an engineer or Baci or somesich person. I think the visibility of the sign is due in part to intensity but mostly because the fequency of light is an holy unnatural stream of blue that occurs rarely if anywhere else. I think the signs are a combination of annoying and genius mostly due to my light frequency theory. If Holiday inc was smart enough to trademark this design then they probably have enough lawyers to block this ordinance. Plus Emma is kind of right if it’s not dangerous then it’s kind of an overeach

    wildgoose | Jan 8, 2013 | New Comment
  7. Tom | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  8. I don’t know if anyone’s been to Seattle, but they must have a similar sign/ad law. The city is so clean and you never see obtrusive McDonald’s signs or anything every 5 feet. I’m hoping this measure passes!

    johnjaundice | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  9. I can honestly say that despite driving by said objectionable sign frequently, it never stood out to me as being anything out of the ordinary. I suppose it isn’t visible from my kitchen window though, and if I lived in the West End and it was smack in the middle of my view corridor, I might feel differently about it.

    I have no doubt that it would be grandfathered in as an existing sign even if the ordinance is changed.

    Business owners typically want the biggest, brightest beacon they can get, and taste and restraint don’t often factor into the decision. I get that, even if I don’t like it. As someone who frequently has to tell people “you can’t do x, y or z because of an ordinance,” I can attest to the anger that property owners feel about being “over regulated.” Then, making an ordinance even more complex (not necessarily more strict, but more complex) just pisses everybody off.

    There is usually a happy medium somewhere, but it often takes a few rounds of negotiations to arrive at it. I just hope the method in this case is to change existing ordinance language rather than adding additional sections to the code.

    schmood1971 | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  10. I don’t see what’s so horrid about the Holiday signs, either. I prefer their gas stations and thanks to the bright blue signs, I know where they are.

    Also, here’s from today’s DNT:

    “If the proposed rules are adopted, Johnson said many signs in the city will become nonconforming structures. The city would allow these signs to remain in place, thanks to a grandfather clause, but if they required significant repair or replacement in the future, changes would be required.”

    So your nemesis will probably stay, anyway.

    Karasu | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  11. I do see now that page 88 of the document contains a memo clearly stating that “legal, non-conforming signs are allowed to continue,” as I suspected all along.

    But a guy can dream, can’t he?

    Anyway, if I’m stuck with the Honking House and the Holiday sign, can I at least buy beer at a liquor store on Sundays to help me cope?

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  12. or a pellet gun and a mask, just sayin’…

    Swan | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  13. I think there are eight Holiday Stations in Duluth (with more in Proctor, Hermantown, Superior, etc.), and most of them do not have the hideous blue light around their signs. So a nice thing about this ordinance is that it would stop more of them from creeping in.

    I do understand that someone driving through town on a snowy/foggy/ rainy day might appreciate the light on the side of the freeway showing them where the gas station is, but that really only makes sense in towns like Mora or Bruno. If you want to know where the gas station is in Duluth, pull off at any exit and there it is.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  14. … and in addition to Sunday purchases, maybe allow beer/wine sales in grocery stores like the entire rest of the universe allows.

    emmadogs | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  15. On a slightly different note, I wish Minnesota would learn from Vermont and ban billboards.

    Bret | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  16. If you purchase or start a franchise business, most require that you have a free-standing illuminated sign. This is why so many communities end up looking the same (at least around the freeway exit). It allows one to use their spare time running for local elected office (usually without much success) on a platform of lowering taxes.

    TimK | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  17. I agree, Bret. It’s hideous that we’ve allowed the public spaces to be filled with obnoxious advertising. By design it’s impossible to ignore and therefore a constant irritation. I feel like my line-of-sight is being raped by corporations.

    andrew | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  18. Compare Grand Marais to Two Harbors. Grand Marais has a restriction on self-standing illuminated signs. Two Harbors does not. Even though GM is 1/4 the size, there are a lot more interesting restaurants than Two Harbors. Planning and zoning are valuable tools in helping to shape the character of a community.

    TimK | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  19. “I feel like my line-of-sight is being raped by corporations.”
    Yes, being raped is totally the same thing as looking at an ugly sign. :/

    BadCat! | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  20. The 2012 city of Duluth christmas tree was totally askew.

    adam | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  21. “Even though GM is 1/4 the size, there are a lot more interesting restaurants than Two Harbors.”

    Two Harbors is a town people drive through on the way to Grand Marais. Destination towns generally have better dining options.

    vicarious | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  22. Yes. It’s a destination in part because it’s not a fast food forest.

    TimK | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  23. I’d like to take a moment to give a shout out to the god-awful, blinding, portable sign that was up for a while at the new Ace hardware on Superior street.

    plasticcup | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  24. Two Harbors is fast-food forest because it’s a town people drive through on the way to a destination town. Clearly, the City of Two Harbors recognizes this fact, and thus does not limit signage (because they want to capture those dollars passing through).

    vicarious | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  25. The Duluth one always annoys me, think it has to do with my glasses…. Read an article a while back about someone who lived near one and was quite annoyed by the perpetual full blue moon outside, every night year round.

    ian | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  26. I noticed today that Holiday has bought out/ absorbed the BP on 40th Ave. W. Does that mean we can look forward to another sign just a mile SW on the freeway?

    Rij | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  27. Not if the city council hurries up with the ordinance.

    Tom | Jan 9, 2013 | New Comment
  28. In Duluth, from where I live on the hillside looking out over the bay, I can see a Holiday sign from Itasca, WI! It’s just off Highway 53, about eight-and-a-half miles away. If you go up to Skyline Parkway at night, just look to the right of the Superior Ore Docks a bit, & you can see it. I bet you can see them from space… (maybe). The one on 27th is indeed nearly blinding, if not distracting.

    DECk37 | Jan 10, 2013 | New Comment
  29. Badcat: the word “rape” does not have to mean forcible intercourse. It can also mean “to treat someone or something in an abusive way”, i.e. “to rape the land for its resources”.
    Lighten up.

    schmood1971 | Jan 10, 2013 | New Comment
  30. Rij: I noticed that a week or two ago, I was kind of excited. Regardless of how annoying their signs can be (maybe it’s constant fingerprints on my glasses and I should learn to clean them better? HAHA), I too prefer Holiday to other gas stations.

    Dawn Marie | Jan 10, 2013 | New Comment
  31. Ok then, I’d bet a lot of you whiners were the same ones whining when they decided to take the lights off the High Bridge.

    How much you wanna bet the Lift Bridge lights will stay on, even though they violate a lot of the restrictions listed in the Ordinance?

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, this town is so full of libtards, that as soon as they outlaw one thing, they move on to the next insignificant thing.

    Zedhead | Jan 11, 2013 | New Comment
  32. The lift bridge lights stay on for safety and marine visibility…and it’s not advertising anything except the lift bridge.

    next, please.

    in.dog.neato | Jan 11, 2013 | New Comment
  33. Bright lights on a bridge may be annoying to people living near them, but they are not blinding & make it safer to drive across. People living near them can take steps in the homes to block the unwanted light, may not be fair, but it’s something that can be done. When a sign, meant to grab your attention is nearly blinding, distracting you, you can’t simply pull the shades.

    DECk37 | Jan 12, 2013 | New Comment
  34. What I mean to say is when you are driving, you can’t just pull the shades.

    DECk37 | Jan 12, 2013 | New Comment
  35. Zed the troll had a little too much “courage” last night.

    in.dog.neato | Jan 12, 2013 | New Comment
  36. I would bet nobody has been raped or blinded by the sign. I used to drive past it regularly when I lived in West Duluth. I know it’s not shining in my window, but the only real nuisance it’s caused me is a split-second worry that I’m being pulled over when I see it in my rearview mirror.

    If you don’t want any light pollution, move up north a ways.

    Hot Shot | Jan 12, 2013 | New Comment

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