Permit restrictions could force the “Hillsdale, It’s the People” sign on M‑99 to come down, unless the City of Hillsdale decides to adopt the sign.
At Monday’s city council meeting, resident Ted Jansen, who headed the project last summer to reinstall a sign in the city with the slogan, “Hillsdale, It’s the People,” addressed the council with his request that the city adopt the sign.
“Without your assistance, the sign will have to come down,” Jansen said.
Jansen said the Frank Beck Chevrolet, which houses the sign on its private property, received notice in mid-January from MDOT that the sign did not have the correct permit. Because the sign is visible from the highway, a billboard permit is required for the sign through the highway advertising act.
When Jansen contacted MDOT last summer, however, he was told that the sign would not need a permit because of the capacity in which it was being used, he said.
“MDOT noted that basically if the sign is not commercial, has no sponsorship, and no solicitation information displayed on the sign, and it is within city limits, on private property, you don’t need a permit,” Jansen said.
With this confirmation last summer, Jansen was able to apply for a permit with the City, giving him permission to erect the sign on private property. Since then, Jansen said he has contacted with MDOT, which says it was initially mistaken. A billboard permit is needed, “unless the sign was owned and maintained by the City,” according to Jansen.
Several council members expressed concern over the City adopting the sign, and whose responsibility the sign would become.
Greg Stuchell, Ward 1 council member, said because the sign is on private property, there could be potential issues down the road.
“It’s not our property, and if we accept the sign, my concern is if they want to move it, it’s on their property,” Stuchell said.
Ward 3 Council Member Bruce Sharp said that because the sign was put together by a resident privately, the city should not get involved. When someone takes on something privately, he said, they accept the responsibility.
“If we adopt this sign, then we’re changing precedence, and I don’t want to do that,” Sharp said. “You took this on yourself, you took the responsibility, and that is where the responsibility should end. I am not in favor of this. I do not want the City to step in.”
Because all the proper information was not prepared, the council did not vote at Monday’s meeting. Discussion may continue at upcoming meetings.
Mayor Adam Stockford said that he was impressed with Jansen’s initiative to get the sign put up.
“We did encourage this, we did say that if someone wants to put a sign up they should take their own initiative to do it — and I was really impressed when you did it,” Stockford said. “I thought it was a really cool thing. It is awesome to see people get together and work together and get something done.”
Stockford said he will get involved and search potential options for the sign.
“I do want the sign to be saved,” he said.