“To reduce visual pollution and physical obstructions caused by a proliferation of signs that could diminish the City’s image, property values, and quality of life.” That’s the stated goal of a proposed sign ordinance the Royal Oak City Council is to consider June 17. The measure would require the eventual dismantling of image-damaging signs, including those that incorporate flashing lights, moving parts, changing text or beacons. Also included are signs deemed traffic hazards because of their size, location, color or “manner of illumination.”
Despite the city’s overwhelming concern for aesthetics and motorists, the 50-foot-tall clock tower located near I-696 on Woodward — with two enormous animation screens, flashing lights, changing text and beacons — will remain.
Royal Oak car dealer Jim Fresard used his vast charm in 1999 to gain approval for the tower, which would look at home on the Las Vegas strip. Even then, the tower violated the existing sign ordinance, but an exemption was granted. Said exemption would continue should the new ordinance pass.
According to Kelly Winters, chief building inspector of Royal Oak, there is little to no opposition to the proposed ordinance. In fact, the mere suggestion of dissatisfaction elicited a burst of laughter from him.
But some business owners aren’t laughing. “I think it’s ridiculous,” says Susan Bowles, co-owner of MGM Cleaners on Woodward. She contends that her well-maintained ’60s-era sign is proof to potential patrons that her business is not just “some fly-by-night operation.”
Perhaps if Bowles had the charm (not to mention clout) of a big car dealer, she could win an exemption for her sign, provided she could manage to make it larger and more gaudy.Adam Stanfel is an editorial intern at Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org