Reading the signs 

RACINE — A report on a new ordinance limiting window signs in storefronts may have caught a few business owners off guard, but according to Assistant Director of City Development Matt Sadowski the new rules are really just an expansion of regulations that have already been in place in a variety of business districts.

Under the new law, only 15 percent of a window section can be covered or otherwise obscured by a sign, lettering or cardboard cutout. The ordinance also bans any sign made using neon paint, paper and markers or hand-drawn lettering.

According to Sadowski until the City Council passed the new ordinance last month window signs were really only allowed in the city’s design districts: Downtown, West Racine, Douglas Avenue, Uptown, and State Street. If your business wasn’t in a design district, window signs were against the rules.

That was the law, but Sadowski said building inspectors allowed shop owners to have them.

“In the past the building department would allow them, but when they would get out of hand they would go out and do a sweep of the area and tell everyone they have to come down,” he said.

With such sweeps occurring every few years or so, Sadowski said planners decided they ought to just find a way to allow the signs everywhere, but regulate them.

What they opted to do, essentially, is adjust the language for window signage in Downtown and the other design districts, and expand it to apply to the whole city.

Sadowski added that window signs are not supposed to be permanent, that’s why the city has allowed them. Businesses are only allowed to have a certain amount of permanent signage and permanent signs require a permit from City Hall.

Although one of the reasons for creating the ordinance was to address safety concerns caused when a business has so many signs in a window that police and others can’t see into the business, the issue wasn’t raised by police.

As it turns out, it was a complaint Alderman Michael Shields received about businesses in his district having too many signs in the windows that caused planners to move to update the ordinance, which they had already been working to revise.

Of Israel and aldermen

RACINE — The Racine City Council has no interest in weighing in on U.S. foreign policy issues.

That much was clear on Tuesday when for the second time in 30 days aldermen voted to receive and file a request from Alderman Keith Fair and the Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice asking the council to pass a resolution calling on the federal government to end military aid to Israel, and redirect any local tax dollars going toward that aid back to the city.

“I do not think it is appropriate for a local body and would be a waste of our time,” Alderman Greg Helding said of the request.

Alderman Michael Shields, who along with aldermen Terry McCarthy and Ray DeHann voted against receiving and filing the request, said he thought it was wrong to keep the item from being discussed.

“When a communication comes in at council we shouldn’t just set it aside,” he said.

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