by CYNTHIA KMETT
To say that residents are stunned, surprised, and very angry by the new 200-square-foot “billboards” going up on Rochester Road, Maple and Livernois, would be an understatement. Those same feelings were shared by Troy City Council, which was just as surprised as the residents when they saw the signs.
It’s not just the size of the signs the residents who addressed Troy City Council last Monday don’t like. These are digital signs and their messages can change, all day long, and maybe all night long. And what will they be advertising, residents were concerned about what messages they might be sending. But there is free speech in America and the Supreme Court has said cities have to be very careful about laws that might curtail free speech.
The problem here for council is that the signs are legal. The permits were taken out by Troy Outdoor LLC for eight signs, but they are not the property owners where the signs are being placed. Four are on Rochester Road, one on Maple and the hole for a sixth is on Livernois. Two other permits for Maple Road have been obtained.
The sign ordinance was written 30 years ago, and apparently rules about height and setbacks kept these large signs from making an appearance, until now. Digital signs have been going up for a number of years, even some churches and schools use them. By ordinance, they must stay on the same message for at least one minute.
These new signs aren’t just big, and these are very substantial signs. None of them have been lit yet, so how or what might be on them is unknown.
Ingrid Peeples called them “a safety risk to our community.” Alec Peeples told council four states have completely eliminated billboards. He wanted to know who was profiting from these signs.
Steven Gornick called them “an eyesore for our beautiful community.” He suggested they would cause distracted driving and might well be a light problem for neighbors. Another observed that Troy had zero billboards until last week.
One resident threatened to get the residents to boycott the businesses that had allowed these signs to be put on Rochester Road. Another said they showed “total disrespect for the taxpayers.”
Council did not disagree on anything the residents said.
“This isn’t the vision we had for Rochester Road,” Councilwoman Edna Abrahim assured them.
In an effort to explore what to do about the signs, Councilman Dave Henderson proposed: Council to Impose a Temporary Moratorium on the Issuance of Permits for Any New Ground Signs in the City of Troy That Exceed 100 Square Feet and to Direct City Administration to Initiate the Process to Research and Review the Sign Ordinance Provisions to Protect Health, Safety and Welfare, and Property Values in the City of Troy.
There was quite a bit of discussion on what should or should not be the wording of Henderson’s proposal. Council didn’t want to hurt other businesses which might need a new sign. However, Mayor Dane Slater proposed that the city put a moratorium on ALL signs for 180 days while the issue is studied by staff and the Planning Commission.
Sign proliferation has been a contention of the Troy Planning Commission for some time, so expect them to weigh in on this new problem.