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Legalizing sign dancers?
Ripon may ban downtown A-frame signs
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The City of Ripon is looking to update its sign ordinance.

But in order to do so, the first of two workshops was held Monday at the Council Chamber led by Planning Director Ken Zuidervaart.

Electronic message center signs, he said, is what got the City to re-think the ordinance.

“We found out we had other sign issues,” said Zuidervaart, who also briefly touched on A-frame, air dancer, awning, banner, blade, changeable copy, hanging, and inflatable signs, to name a few, along with sign dancers.

“We are allowing (for sign dancers) in the proposal,” he said.

But that would only be to advertise special events or that of a new subdivision. Sign dancers would be required to have the proper spacing of 50 feet apart from the next one. “We don’t want six of these guys competing in the same spot,” Zuidervaart said.

A second workshop is scheduled at 6 p.m. next Monday at City Hall. “We’re hoping more people come out,” he said.

Fewer than a dozen were in attendance at this workshop, including Sign Committee member Ginger Estes.

She saw the need for a change after coming across an old banner hanging over a downtown business about six month ago. “(The sign) said nothing since the letters were badly faded,” Estes noted.

That sign was removed about a week later as her complaint was met.

The committee on the matter was formed in 2011, with Andy Soares of the United Sign Company serving as the consultant.

Elected leaders Leo Zuber and Jake Parks currently serve on the committee.

“We want to provide businesses with the greatest opportunity (to post) advertisements,” Zuidervaart said.

At the same time, the ordinance is necessary to “provide standards to safeguard life, health, property and public welfare in keeping with the character of the city,” the 57-page proposal said.

Zuidervaart indicated that regulations, while visually and economically effective, would also prevent needless distraction and clutter from excessive and confusing sign displays.

Take the A-frame signs, for starters. These are the same signs often found in front of markets, restaurants or bakeries with changing special menus.

Under the proposal, A-frame signs – temporary, freestanding, and consisting of two message panels – would continue to be OK for commercial zones but not so for downtown businesses due to sidewalk liability issues, said Zuidervaart.

An A-frame sign could be placed on-site only while not within a public right-of-way or on the publicly owned property. For the most part, this sign could not be placed any closer than 50 feet from any other A-frame.

Zuidervaart said it’s unlikely that electronic message centers would present the same sort of clutter due to the high cost of these signs.

Electronic message center signs would be allowed for churches, schools, and shopping centers with three acres or more in size and with an anchor tenant of 20,000 square feet or more.

While air dancer signs – in this case, a tube of fabric that inflates air to grab the attention of passersby – aren’t often used in Ripon, Zuidervaart said this source of advertisement could be used for special events in which case a permit would be required.

Awning or canopy signs would also require a sign permit and allowed in all zones throughout town. The design for these signs must follow certain parameters and requirements. “Vinyl or plastic (materials) would not be allowed,” Zuidervaart said.

Balloon signs or any spherical shaped inflatable device tethered in a fixed location for grand openings or special events would be considered temporary and allowed for only short periods of time.

Banner signs made of lightweight material and mounted securely to a pole or a structure would be considered temporary and used to up to 45 consecutive days.

The attractive blade sign is often small, suspended from an overhang, canopy, or awning, would require a sign permit. “These signs would be allowed in all zones under the change,” Zuidervaart said.

A permit would also be required for changeable copy marquee signs often seen in Sunday worship schedules at churches.

Hanging signs – larger than blade signs – give a unique look to businesses located in the historic downtown district. Around town, Main Street Floral and the Ripon Historical Society Clarence Smit Museum offer examples of this signage. “(Hanging signs) were not allowed or addressed in the code,” Zuidervaart said.

The ordinance came about in the 1990s and was updated in the early 2000s, he added.

The City got the word out to local businesses on the two workshops via post cards.

Zuidervaart said the purpose of these sessions was to fine tune any parts of the proposal based on feedback.

“The Sign Committee will re-convene after the workshops and incorporate any valid comments (in making any changes),” he said.

The matter will go to the Planning Commission, which, in turn, will provide recommendations to the Ripon City Council.

Prior to adopting the ordinance, Council will conduct one more public hearing.

“This is your sign ordinance,” Zuidervaart said to the folks attending the session.

For more information on the sign proposal, call Ripon City Hall at 209-599-2108 or log on to