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Wentzville Business Owners Talk about Sign Issues at Board Work Session

The issue came up when Liberty Tax Service was told that their Liberty Statue character would not be allowed to wave at cars on Wentzville Parkway.

Human signs, balloons, banners—these and other types of temporary advertising tools were a topic of discussion at Wednesday night's Wentzville Board of Aldermen meeting.

The topic had come up at a previous meeting when the owner of Liberty Tax Service told the board that his Liberty Statue character would still wave at cars along Wentzville Boulevard even after he was told that it was not allowed.

Liberty now carries signs such as "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" and is allowed as a political statement.

Several local business owners and managers attended the meeting to add their own opinions and experiences.

Tony Thieman, owner of Thieman Carpet, J&R Barber Shop and several other Wentzville businesses, was concerned about the safety aspect of costumed characters holding signs—"human signs"—who stand on city sidewalks to advertise businesses.

Thieman said that the characters weren't the only distraction for drivers who are also eating french fries and talking on cell phones. "But it's another obstacle out there and people are already not paying attention," Thieman said. "It's a dangerous thing in high traffic areas."

Kevin Mock, general manager of Century Dodge, brought up the special issues of a business located along a highway. He said that balloons were a big part of advertising for an auto dealer, and that he wasn't able to use them without applying for a temporary sign permit.

Doug Forbeck, Community Development Director, said that city staff did their best to work with business owners. The city currently allows businesses to apply for temporary signage for 10 days per event, per calendar year.

Ward 1 Alderman Forrest Gossett said that he thought that the city's sign ordinances and signage districts were unnecessarily complicated. He also asked for a reduction in the fees for temporary signage. "We nickel and dime our businesses to death. The citizens have already paid for government."

As far as human signs, Gossett said they should be limited to the front of a business and that they should be blocked from heavy-traffic intersections.

Cheryl Kross, Ward 1 alderman, agreed with relaxing the requirements on temporary signage, such as balloons and flags, with some limitations, and also allowing businesses to advertise on all four sides of their buildings. "No permit fee," she said. "Tax tax tax—no more fees. I would support removing fees."

A staffer from Great Clips asked the board to consider offering an expedited application process. Some franchises are not given much lead time for certain promotions, she said. She mentioned that a few years ago, when the city couldn't approve her application in time for a promotion, she put up her banner along Wentzville Parkway anyway, and ended up paying a fine.

Ward 2 Alderman Chris Gard brought up the subject of parking lot promotions, such as the ones radio stations do. "You don't see that a lot in Wentzville," he said. "Why?" He asked that the subject be marked for future discussion.

The board also discussed how much of a business' window space could be covered by advertising, how to help out businesses that were set back from the road and were having a hard time attracting customers, and the actual cost to the city of issuing the permits.

Staff was directed to come up with some suggested changes to the sign ordinances for a future board meeting.

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