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DL OKs billboard freeze on 5-4 vote

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The Detroit Lakes City Council held its second reading and passing of a motion establishing a one-year moratorium on billboards and electronic signs in the city.

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"We're here not for a ban, but for a delay," resident Glenn Gifford said.

Some residents spoke in favor of the moratorium, citing the aesthetics of having billboards along Highway 10. Business owners spoke against a moratorium, though, saying not being able to advertise their businesses along the highway would hurt them financially.

Attorney Patrick Kenney spoke on behalf of Newman Signs, saying "to put a ban on it now is inappropriate."

Alderman Bruce Imholte pointed out that the city isn't looking to put a ban -- something permanent -- on anything, but rather a moratorium, or something the council can revisit and make further decisions on.

Resident Del Bergseth said, "What's the rush? I think things should be planned and I don't think this is."

He added that Detroit Lakes is losing its uniqueness with more and more billboards going up in the area and looking more and more like Fargo.

"We hear we don't want to look like Fargo, don't want to look like St. Cloud, don't want to look like Rochester. Guess what, those towns are thriving," Alderman Ron Zeman said.

Bergseth also suggested they use the small metal signs along the highway that list restaurants and stores of interest, rather than billboards. Russ Newman of Newman Signs said those types of signs only work with nationally known franchises, like McDonalds for example.

Cole Hanson, who is associated with Zorbaz and Fireside, said he is strongly in favor of the use of billboards and uses them for both the businesses.

"Once again, this is a question of planning. Once again, this is a plea for some long-term planning," Sharon Jospehson said.

She also suggested the council look at signs in the two-mile radius of Detroit Lakes because that is where Detroit Lakes is growing.

Not that there shouldn't be advertising, she said, "I'm just asking for a pause."

Imholte was in favor of that pause, saying he is for advertising and helping downtown businesses.

"I don't think we should ban them, they are helpful" for local businesses, he said.

Jim Anderson said he wondered what the financial strain on businesses would be if they weren't allowed to advertise for a year.

Zeman agreed that some businesses may not have that year to survive.

Alderman James Hannon disagreed, saying he didn't think any businesses would fail because of a moratorium on new billboards.

The moratorium passed with a 5-4 vote. Hannon, Imholte, Leonard Heltemes, Walt Tollefson and GL Tucker voted in favor of the moratorium. Anderson, Zeman, Matt Brenk and Dave Aune voted against it.

Also at the meeting, the council:

• Applauded after Mayor Larry Buboltz presented Sally Hausken with a certificate of appreciation for her efforts in the development of Sucker Creek, a "very unique city park," Buboltz said. "Without Sally's work, this would not have happened."

• Discussion and voting on the Tower Road Industrial Park and orderly annexation of 228 acres in that area has been tabled until May 1.

A public hearing on the annexation will be held at 5 p.m. at a special city council meeting, followed by discussion on the industrial park at 7 p.m. during the planning commission meeting.

• Approved of a request by St. Mary's Regional Health Center to widen Lincoln Avenue.

• Reversed the one-way alley behind JCPenney, between Frazee Street and Holmes Street.

All the storeowners, with the exception of one on vacation, signed the petition, asking it be reversed due to traffic problems.

"This is a problem primarily because the alley is often times blocked by unloading semis, making it sometimes impossible to get to parking spots," the letter reads.

• Signed a purchase agreement with Steve Evans for the Kentucky Fried Chicken property. According to the agreement, Evans will purchase the property for $6,000, effective Nov. 1. Evans will also be responsible for taxes, title, survey, etc. costs.

• Approved a name change for the Street Department. An amendment was made calling the street department the public works department, and the commissioner now the public works director. Duties will stay the same; it is simply a name change.

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