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- Open Government: Improved FOIA laws crucial
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Guest Column: Fighting City Hall over the business sign ordinance
By Ray Smith
Two years ago, I had a yard sign printed that advertised my computer repair business and put it in the front yard. It stayed up for 10-plus months, and I got at least eight new clients from this, plus at least a dozen referrals from these new clients.
After the 10 months, I received a letter from the City of Rockford telling me I needed to take the sign down because it was in violation of the city ordinance. I complied. In fact, three days later, I was outside when a lady from the city zoning office was driving by and she stopped. This was the woman I spoke to on the phone when I received the notice. She parked and got out of her car and introduced herself. She told me my violation was pointed out because of a call-in. She stated the sign cannot give the name or address of the business. OK. I removed the sign and moved on.
September of this year, I decided to try to promote my business, researching the city ordinances regarding business signs in a residential area. Boy, are they not only confusing, but extremely contradictory. But I found the ordinance codes and had a sign made up that fits within the code: (51-007-A-6 (f): That the sign shall not advertise the name of the business on the property but shall only identify services provided, but not including brand name identification (except for brand name identification for new passenger vehicle sales.) So, here we are, one month later, and I received a letter in the mail stating I must appear before the city council’s office Oct. 17 to discuss my violations.
Now, I drove around today taking pictures of ALL kinds of signs from: “We Buy Houses” and “Piano Lessons” to “Landscaping Services” that have all been up since spring and a few all year round. These I plan on using as evidence showing how the City of Rockford has already set a “precedent” for such signs by allowing these to be all over Rockford on a yearly and/or seasonal basis.
Think of all the “Weight Loss,” “College Painters,” “Avon” and “We Buy Houses” signs we’ve seen all over Rockford. That, by legal definition of the word, has set a “precedent” of acceptability for these signs, within the city of Rockford.
Included here is a picture of my old sign compared to the new sign. When the economy is so messed up that people can’t even find a job these days, every little bit helps. My business went from a storefront in the 1990s to part-time in-house computer repair.
But as with our state and federal government, the local city government, too, is trying to stop the working class from making any kind of money just to survive.
Ray Smith is a Rockford resident.
From the Oct. 16-22, 2013, issue