November 29, 2016
Carroll’s City Council is considering the purchase of a “downtown identification sign” its members hope would attract shoppers to Carroll’s downtown offerings.
The sign, proposed to council Monday evening by the Westgate Mall Association, would be purchased and maintained by the city and placed in the city-owned parking lot southwest of the intersection of U.S. Highway 30 and Carroll Street.
The proposed sign would read “Citi Plaza, Carroll, Iowa — Shop, Dine, Experience — It’s all here.”
Tax increment financing funds would be an option for funding the sign, which would be considered a public sign and permitted in the applicable zoning district if it doesn’t advertise an individual business but rather touts the entire downtown district, City Manager Mike Pogge-Weaver told the council Monday evening.
Although council would go through a normal bidding process if its members decided to go forward with the project, the association’s rough estimate for the sign’s cost, based on its members’ initial research with one signmaker, is between $30,000 and $56,000.
Pogge-Weaver noted that this proposal would have the city purchase and maintain the sign, but it wouldn’t result in direct income coming back to the city, such as through rental fees. But most council members agreed that advertising downtown commerce would benefit the city.
“I think our downtown business district is a shining star for our community that really sets us apart,” council member Clay Haley said. “I do see great merit behind having this addition to the area.”
Representatives from the association suggested the sign be placed on the parking lot’s north end in the middle of the first row of parking, along Highway 30, and some council members agreed the visibility might merit the additional maintenance and snow removal that would be required around the sign. The 10-by-8-foot sign would take up about one parking space, according to a letter from the Westgate Mall Association.
“We’d be defeating the purpose (to place the sign in a less visible area),” council member Carolyn Siemann said. “The inconvenience, for promoting our downtown — I think it’s worth the tradeoff. ... I think it’s vital.”
Council member Jerry Fleshner added that a sign placed in the proposed spot along U.S. Highway 30 would be more symmetric.
Tom Wieland, one of the association representatives at Monday’s council meeting, noted the sign company that crafted estimates for council to review also made the sign that has been at Bloomers Sports Bar & Grill for 10 years — so it likely wouldn’t be a sign that would fall apart in two years, he said.
The proposed sign would mimic the design of the nearby Depot Business Center, according to the letter. Westgate Mall property owners also would purchase and maintain an additional sign to place at the mall’s west entrance. The second sign also would be designed to complement the parking-lot sign, the letter states.
“We just need something to help the downtown merchants,” said Chico Kanne, one of the association representatives who spoke with the council Monday. “If we’re going to keep downtown alive, us as landowners and merchants, we’ve got to figure out how to draw people in and slow them down.”
The estimated cost range for the proposed sign depends on if and how the sign would light up at night. During their initial discussions about the sign Monday evening, most council members agreed a sign that lights up and is visible 24/7 would be a better investment.
Council members voted unanimously to have city staff members explore the sign’s possibility. With no set decision made Monday evening, the city will continue to consider the idea, including exactly how the sign would look, its wording and if an island of sorts would be built around it, after more research is completed.
“This is a big deal — it’s going to be here for awhile,” council member Misty Boes said, adding that she supports the idea. “If we’re going to spend money on it, I don’t want just another sign.”
During the meeting, council members also recognized member Brandon Vonnahme, who announced he will need to step down from council next month after his family moves to a house just outside Carroll’s city limits.
“I regret this decision had to be made,” said Vonnahme, 30, who was elected last year. “I want to thank the council members and staff, and the people who supported me throughout my campaign. ... I want to extend my gratitude toward everyone for the year I’ve served. It was fantastic.”