by Jonathan Copsey / Appen Newspapers
Milton – When is a neon sign suitable, and when is it not? That was the question put to the council at last week's work session, a time when members of the council can debate issues without any final votes.
Bringing the issue up was Councilman Joe Longoria, who noted that many businesses located on Highway 9 violate – knowingly or not – the city's laws on when and where neon signage can be used in a business.
According to the Highway 9 Overlay, which is a collection of laws specifically for the area along that road, neon signs that can be seen from the road are forbidden. Unfortunately, the law is somewhat vague as to what neon signs are disallowed.
"Where we start having a challenge, is when the signs become part of the décor," explained Longoria. As the most common usage, the ubiquitous "Open" neon sign is not covered by the ordinance. It's neon, and a sign, but because it just plugs into the wall and is within the business, it is allowed.
Even more challenging is what to do about businesses that depend on their neon signs for their branding. National companies, such as Target or Wendy's, have neon signs attached to their businesses that are in violation of city ordinances; however, they are standard company signs found on any other franchise.
"I wanted to have this discussion how to educate everybody on compliance, or change the ordinance so this is not an ongoing issue," Longoria said, adding, "I want to try and come up with something more flexible."