When’s an ad not an ad?What does the word “advertising” mean? That was the question at the center of a debate over Afton’s much-anticipated Old Village welcome signs.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
What does the word “advertising” mean?
That was the question at the center of a debate over Afton’s much-anticipated Old Village welcome signs.
City council members discussed Afton’s problematic signs situation at their meeting on Feb. 19, when they were told the bad news that the placement of both welcome signs might be in jeopardy.
It was hoped that both signs, which read “Welcome to historic Afton. Founded in 1855” and feature the names of 11 of the city’s businesses, would be placed at the approaches to the downtown area at the north and south ends of Afton.
At a previous meeting, on Feb. 11, council members heard the $13,000 signs could not be placed within the county’s right of way, as Washington County officials had determined the signs constituted advertising since they bore the names of 11 businesses and were therefore prohibited by ordinance.
A resident had stepped forward to offer space on his private property at the north end of Afton for the placement of one sign, and Afton Area Business Association, which paid for the lion’s share of the signs, requested the city allow the southern sign to be placed upon its property.
But council member Peg Nolz threw a wrench in the works at the Feb. 19 meeting, referring her fellow councilors to Afton’s city ordinance 12:118, governing the zoning of the southern location, and she said, “An advertising sign or a business sign is not allowed on our property [in that zone], and that’s it. Period.”
City attorney Mitchell Converse told the meeting he believed the signs could still be placed on city property.
“I didn’t look at the definition of advertising in the light of this recent review,” he added.
“I don’t know if the purpose of the sign is to direct attention to a certain business or property or to the downtown as a whole.”
Council members were told the placement of the sign at the northern end of Afton on private property could also be in doubt, as zoning restrictions there meant advertising signs would be prohibited, although if it was decided the sign constituted a business sign, it would be permitted.
The matter was set aside until the March meeting of the council, to allow further inquiries to be made.