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Hales Corners electronic sign allowance may be glimpse of future

Village makes exception to sign code for Jetz

April 16, 2013

Hales Corners - Debate over signage code, coupled with local gas station Jetz's competition with a proposed Franklin QuikTrip, prompted the plan commission to recommend the village board allow Jetz an exception to sign code Monday.

Current code calls for electronic message boards to be at least 300 feet away from traffic signals. Jetz representatives asked the commission for an exception to the existing code that would allow them to have an electronic board 140 feet away from a signal.

They called for the electronic message board with the specter a $4 million QuickTrip coming into Franklin, roughly half a mile down Highway 100 from Jetz. QuickTrip would have two electronic message boards measuring a total of 100 square feet.

"My concern is that my customers will be diverted to Franklin and it's not going to be good for my business or my business partners and ultimately it won't be good for Hales Corners unless you give us some tools to work with," Jetz president Robert O'Connor said.

A series of setbacks

The commission recommended the exception mainly because Jetz's sign is set away from road and traffic signals on a flood plane.

While commissioners had denied other businesses, including McDonalds, from posting message boards on Highway 100, many agreed that the sign would not be intrusive due to its location away from traffic lights.

"I think what the sign ordinance is trying to avert is this Las Vegas strip coming down Hales Corners," commissioner Christopher Stipe said. "However, we have to keep in mind the fact that the sign you have is not right on the corner."

The sign is not on the corner due to restrictions imposed by the board when Jetz started business in Hales Corners in 1997. Village administrators wanted the sign away from the "Welcome to Historic Hales Corners" sign on Highway 100, setting it in its current location. After imposing the limitations, the village added the 300-foot restriction code, stopping Jetz from adding an electronic message board.

"We've been put in a little bit of a pickle by the village here with this kind of sign," Jetz representative Tim Klein said.

A sign of the future

The plan commission was to discuss updating code on electronic message boards in their board meeting. They did not, however, due to the absence of village administrator Michael Weber.

Current village code allows only for one message change per hour for electronic message boards. The plan commission will review that aspect as well as others in their May 20 meeting.

While nothing is set in stone, O'Connor said he would visit the plan commission in the future with other businesses to ask for a more lenient code.

"When you hear from more and more business owners and look at how to balance this properly, you'll probably end up with a happy medium which may be a little more liberal than what you have now," he said.

The Hales Corners Chamber of Commerce will also be meeting to discuss sign code sometime in May.

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