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St. Croix Co. considers law for signs

While the process for getting permits for smaller signs will be easier and less expensive, it won't be legal to erect a new billboard in most rural areas of St. Croix County under a proposed sign regulation ordinance.

The new ordinance, expected to be voted on by the County Board during its June 19 meeting, does not apply to the county's cities and villages or to the towns of Hudson, Forest and Cady -- which have their own zoning ordinances.

If adopted, the new law will replace standards that have been in place for 30 years, said Planner Ellen Denzer. The county has had a moratorium on new permanent signs since January.

The proposed ordinance prohibits off-premises signs except directional, pre-existing signs and temporary signs, including those allowed during election campaign periods.

"They're very rarely allowed right now," said Denzer, pointing out that under the old law, billboards were permitted only in commercial and industrial districts, only along major highways and only with large separations between signs.

Under the new law, billboards ("permanent freestanding signs") that exist on July 1, 2007, will be allowed to continue in use. But, while the message may be changed, the signs can't be moved, added to or repaired if that costs over half the assessed value of the sign. Once a nonconforming sign has been removed, it cannot be replaced.

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