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updated: 9/28/2011 1:27 PM

Geneva considers more sidewalk signs downtown

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  • Sale similar to these at Geneva Commons could be coming to the downtown area to help businesses attract shoppers.

      Sale similar to these at Geneva Commons could be coming to the downtown area to help businesses attract shoppers.
    LAURA STOECKER | Staff Photographer, 2007


Those sidewalk signs advertising "50 percent off accessories today!" or pointing the way to businesses off the main drags will likely soon be legal for all kinds of businesses in Geneva.

The Geneva City Council, meeting as a committee of the whole, decided it favors letting more have A-frame sandwich board signs. Currently, only restaurants can have the signs.

In a separate vote, however, the committee declined to eliminate the city's sign review committee and to allow projecting signs.

Both items will likely come up for binding votes at Tuesday's city council meeting.

Worries about impeding pedestrians were addressed: The signs have to be within one foot of a business' primary frontage lot line, which on State is often the building's edge. Businesses that don't front on State or Third streets could place signs at corners along those streets, directing people to their stores.

The signs will have to allow 5 feet of clearance in the public way, per requirements of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. And if the sign is in the public way, the owner will have to get a permit from the city for the sign.

Geneva History Center director Terry Emma, who runs through the downtown, questioned if anyone has ever tripped over such a sign. The center uses them to advertise events and exhibits.

"It is an easy, inexpensive way for us to put our message out there," she said.

History center volunteer Mary Bencini, saying she shops downtown, pleaded on behalf of the merchants, especially those on streets off Third. "I have no problems with any of the A-frames, especially at this time. My gosh, the downtown people are hurting for business," she said.

City administrator Mary McKittrick cautioned that allowing the signs adds more work to the load of the city's code enforcement office, which processes applications and inspects signs. Unless the city hires more help, those activities will take away from other duties, she said.

Building Commissioner Dustin Schultze said the code enforcement department was instructed about 18 months ago to stop enforcing the A-frame law, after some business owners complained about why restaurants got to have them and other businesses didn't.

Mike Simon of Geneva, who owns several properties and businesses in the downtown, suggested the city need not make inspections a high priority, because he doesn't anticipate many infractions.

"My guess is and my hope is there won't be somebody out there enforcing it on a daily basis, because this isn't a daily basis kind of issue," he said.

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