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Madison officials consider legalizing ‘sandwich board’ signs

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Madison City Council leaders have proposed legalizing and regulating sandwich board-style signs for businesses to display on public sidewalks and terraces.

Council President Mike Verveer and President Pro Tem Marsha Rummel proposed an ordinance to create a permit system for sandwich boards in the public right of way, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. It includes detailed criteria for their size, design and placement.

Rummel said the citywide ordinance would create a system that recognizes the needs of businesses, would ensure signs are located in the best possible spots, and make enforcement fair and uniform.

Areas where buildings abut the public right of way are peppered with signs that are technically illegal.

“It’s been a frustration of mine that the city has not officially allowed sandwich boards for so many years,” Verveer said. “However, we enforce rules that aren’t known to the business owners. We have been in this gray area for far too long.”

The city currently has a permit process for such signs on private property.

Mayor Paul Soglin has long been opposed to sandwich boards for aesthetic and safety reasons. He says he is “highly unlikely” to support the measure.

Sandwich boards currently are illegal on public property, but the city doesn’t enforce the law unless the portable signs create a safety hazard, block pedestrian access, are oversized, placed at a distance from a business or cause a complaint.

Verveer said city committees will review the proposed ordinance, which could be decided by the council as early as April 18.

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