Board places moratorium on electronic signage

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

June 7, 2017

TOWN OF BROOKFIELD — After receiving a pair of requests, Town of Brookfield officials have decided to put the brakes on new electronic signage outside commercial establishments through at least the end of the year.

The Town Board on Tuesday voted to place a six-month moratorium on electronic message boards of all forms as it works with experts in hammering out a new sign ordinance across the municipality.

Gary Lake, development services director, said the new requests were linked to the bustling mixed-use The Corners development at Interstate 94 and Bluemound Road, which has been operating two months and continues to add tenants.

The Corners has several electronic signs already in use, including a prominent one near anchor tenant Von Maur that is highly visible to motorists along I-94.

The board reviewed a memo from Town Attorney James Hammes, which addressed a possible moratorium on signage of all types during the ordinance review. But after hashing over the issue, elected officials decided to limit the temporary halt to electronic forms.

“We’d be in trouble real quick,” Lake said of widening the moratorium on all signage. “There are new tenants coming in, and they want their identification.”

Electronic signage has become a hot topic in a number of municipalities trying to strike a balance between business-friendly practices and quaint residential characteristics.

Supervisor John Schatzman suggested the six-month time frame for the moratorium “to get this figured out.” Officials did not delve into the specifics of what might or might not constitute a permissible electronic sign moving forward.

Chairman Keith Henderson said the town’s Architectural Control Committee should be brought into the discussion as the sign code is reviewed.

“I’d like to get them involved in looking at all types of signs,” Henderson said. “But let’s do (the moratorium) on the electronic message boards and leave the rest as-is for now.”

Schatzman said he believed the town should think carefully about whatever amendments are incorporated into the sign code.

“I don’t the public is aware of how much input and control we have over this,” Schatzman said.

Also on Tuesday, the Town Board set a public hearing as a precursor to amending the municipal code for cellular communication facilities.

Lake said the town last updated its municipal code for cell towers and other infrastructure in 2002. In its current iteration, he deemed the language “obsolete” because of technology’s rapid evolution during the past 15 years.

In the past decade-and-a-half, the town has fielded requests for cell providers interested in co-locating on the same structure.

“But a proposal is coming forward for a new cell tower,” Lake said, pointing out the impetus for the possible amendment to the municipal code.

Lake said the town could incorporate language from state statutes concerning cell towers and similar infrastructure and add it into the municipal code.

The public hearing has been tentatively set for the town’s next Plan Commission meeting June 27.