City loosens restrictions on electronic messaging signs

Changes OK’d unanimously

City officials on Wednesday approved changes to the city’s zoning code to allow looser restrictions on electronic messaging signs, ending several months of haggling over the language of the new rules.

The changes reduce the pause time of a static image or text from 30 seconds to three seconds for all zoning districts; increase the transition time for static images from instantaneous, to allow up to one-second transition time between images or text for all zoning districts; allow for full motion video in clips not exceeding six seconds in length in the Community Mixed Use and Urban Mixed Use zonings; and limit electronic message center screens displaying video and images to no more than 75 percent of the sign’s total area in Community Mixed Use and Urban Mixed Use areas.

The changes were approved by unanimous votes in back-to-back meetings of the Shawano Plan Commission and Common Council.

The plan commission in August was initially set to vote on a plan that would have forced variable electronic messaging signs in the city to display any single text or graphic for at least eight seconds before changing.

The proposed change would have amended the ordinance in the city’s new code book, adopted in 2015, that requires a single message display time of at least 30 seconds.

One problem with the current rule is that few if any businesses are complying with it.

Some 19 businesses and public organizations in the city, including churches and schools and organizations such as the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce, have electronic messaging centers with LED or other types of displays that rotate every two to four seconds.

Most were in place before the 2015 code changes and were grandfathered in.

Tony Zielinski, owner of the Four Seasons Resort, argued that even lowering the minimum time to eight seconds was unreasonable.

Zielinski is planning on adding an electronic messaging center outside the Four Seasons that would promote not only his business but also other community events.

He said it would be unfair to hold his sign to a different standard than the 19 that have already been grandfathered in.

The commission recommended a minimum of three seconds for text messages or static images before they could change, and six seconds before any changeover of animated displays, including video.

By the time that proposal reached the Common Council, however, it was decided the change was significant enough to warrant a new public hearing, which was held before the plan commission Wednesday.

Zielinski was the only speaker and he praised the compromise language that had eventually been settled on.

“I think it’s an awesome change for Shawano,” he said.