Officials give Dollar Tree a pass on oversized sign

Port commission members irked by request for sign that is larger than allowed by code but OK it anyway

DESPITE THE FACT that the framework for an oversized sign was built before permission was given, angering officials, the Port Washington Plan Commission approved the placard for the new Dollar Tree store on the city’s north side. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

A sign for the new Dollar Tree store that is being created in the North Port Shopping Center on Port Washington’s far north side was the source of consternation for the Plan Commission recently.

Commission members were concerned that the sign is larger than permitted by city codes and would rise four feet above the roofline, something that not only violates the sign code but also is out of keeping with the signs for other businesses in the center.

Those signs fit in a band along the roofline but don’t extend beyond the roof.

The fact that the frame for the extended sign had already been erected at the strip mall irked members as well.

“I’m not thrilled that the facade’s up without permission. That’s kind of presumptious,” Mayor Marty Becker, chairman of the commission, said, noting that too often people “seek forgiveness instead of permission.”

“You’re rewarding bad behavior (if it’s approved),” he said.

He also spoke against approving the larger sign.

“You really don’t need that big a sign,” Becker said. “It’s going to be a go-to location. People will find it.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich agreed with the idea that the sign be required to fit within the signband along the building like those for other businesses at the center.

“I think it would look out of place otherwise,” he said. “I would be more open to accepting (a larger sign) if it fit in the sign band.”

That stance was echoed by commission member Tony Matera.

“I’m kind of leaning to the uniformity of the building,” he said, although he said he believes the larger sign would not look bad.

But Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven disagreed, saying the extended sign would not detract from the building.

“I don’t think you’re necessarily painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa,” he said. “The framework of the sign, how does it detract from the building? This building is a strip mall.

“Certainly nothing looks worse than a vacant spot.”

Variations in the center’s roofline might not look bad if it were consistent across the strip mall, Ehrlich said, but just having one sign jut beyond the roof “would look out of place.”

But commission member Eric Ryer said allowing the large sign would embolden others to seek exceptions to the rule.

“Be prepared for the other businesses (in the center) to come in and ask for larger signs too,” he said.

Commission member debated various motions, first considering a motion to only allow the 82 square foot sign permitted by code and to require it be lower than the roofline and later a motion allowing a 110 square foot sign — the size sought by the store — but only if it was lower than the roofline.

The lettering sought by the store would fit in the signband on the center, members noted.

When that was voted down, they agreed to approve the larger sign even if it jutted beyond the roofline.

The commission agreed to the larger sign, in part, because the store occupies a larger space in the mall.

The commission also approved an exception that will allow the store to be listed on the pylon sign next to the shopping center, saying that when the new sign was installed last year they understood these exceptions would be sought by center tenants.

“It faces a highway. It doesn’t detract from our community,” Matera said.


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