Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 9, 2005

Sign on Highway 7 directing people to Winsted in the works

By Gail Lipe
McLeod County Chronicle

Winsted, MN Signs
A Sign & Graphics Company
The McLeod County sign ordinance restricts the type of signs that can be used outside city limits, but the type of signs proposed by the city of Winsted is not addressed in the ordinance. The question is, does that mean the signs are allowed or not allowed?

Brent Mareck, Winsted city administrator, and Winsted Mayor Don Guggemos met with the McLeod County Planning Advisory Commission last week to discuss the city’s proposed signs.

So far, getting signs along Highway 7 directing people to Winsted has taken more than two years, said Mareck. The city is proposing two signs — one about one-fourth mile west of Highway 1 and one about one-fourth mile east of County Road 9 — that say “Winsted next two lefts” or “Winsted next two rights” and have an arrow pointing north.

The proposed signs are 3-by-9-feet in size, and will match the green on highway signs. They would be placed outside the road right-of-way, and both sites have trees behind them so the signs will not obstruct anyone’s view, said Guggemos.

“We went to MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation), and this is what they prefer,” said Guggemos.

Mareck said the state requires a municipality to be within two miles of a state highway for a directional sign to be installed along that highway. With the city in the process of annexing about 114 acres south of Winsted, he said it puts the city close enough to the two-mile line that the state OK’d the signs, as long as the county approves them.

“Winsted is between (Highway) 7 and (Highway) 12. People have a hard time finding us,” said Mareck. He said the signs are just “plain Jane signs to help people find us.”

Ray Bayerl, McLeod County commissioner, said he has a feeling Lester Prairie would want to do the same thing as soon as the signs go up.

Mareck said the current ordinance does not address signs like those the city is proposing, which does not mean they are not allowed.

But Larry Gasow, McLeod County zoning administrator, said the ordinance states if something is not addressed, it is not allowed.

Guggemos said the county’s ordinance says no signs should be put in road rights-of-way, but the landfill signs are in the right-of-way. “We need to have the same rules for everyone.”

“Is there any way to make this better?” said Mareck.

“I have no problem with the signs,” said Herman Miller, planning commission member. But he did voice a concern about the size. The county ordinance allows for directional signs for businesses, which are smaller than the ones the city is proposing.

The signs are not advertising anything, they are just directing people, said Guggemos.

Mareck asked the planning commission if the county has a mechanism for temporary use so the city could be allowed to put the signs up for 60 days. That way the planning commission members could see what they look like and how they would affect the area.

No resolution came of the discussion, but the planning commission discussed whether or not signs like the city is proposing would be allowed in a new sign ordinance.

It also will be looking into whether or not the signs could be allowed with a conditional use permit.

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