WILLIAMS BAY — A sign ordinance on the village books is not being followed, and it is not being enforced.
Jim Killian, a village board trustee, said that it may be time for the village board to review the ordinance and decide whether to amend it, repeal it or enforce it.
Among the parts of the ordinance being ignored are businesses keeping their signs lit after business hours are over.
Temporary signs also are being posted without permits, and walls of downtown businesses are being covered in signs — all prohibited by the village’s ordinance.
For his part, Killian said the ordinance should be kept as is and be enforced.
“I recently read the sign ordinance and I think it’s a good one,” he said. “I like the way it’s written. I’d like to see it enforced.”
At this point, the village has not taken any action regarding its sign ordinance since Killian first brought up the issue, said Village President Bill Duncan.
Duncan said trustees will be ready to talk about the issue in January.
“We’re getting our ducks in a row,” he said.
Killian said one of his hopes is that requiring businesses to turn off their lighted signs when they close, which reduce light pollution in the village.
During business hours, signs may be illuminated, but flashing lights are not allowed. Once a business closes for the day, it should be lights out.
Yerkes Observatory is promoting the Dark Skies Initiative, an international organization headquartered that promotes the protection of night skies through public education about responsible outdoor lighting.
Yerkes staff and interns are preparing an application to Dark Skies to have Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy named a Dark Skies Park.
Part of the application for the Dark Skies Park requires the applicant to provide copies of the local light pollution ordinance.
Not everyone on the village board agrees with Killian’s assessment of the current ordinance.
Jim D’Alessandro a village board trustee and president of the Williams Bay Business Association, said the requirement that businesses shut of their lights after business hours is one of his problems with the ordnance.
“I’ve never been a fan of that,” he said.
D’Alessandro said that the sign ordinance was written when Yerkes Observatory was still using telescopes for research. He said there is no need for that requirement now.
Yerkes has since changed its mission to an educational one.
And the nature of business has changed, said D’Alessandro, who owns the Harbor Side Motel.
“I think it’s a form of advertising,” he said. He said it’s a benefit having lights on after business hours because it alerts people that there is a business at a specific location.
He said businesses have also taken their transactions online and are essentially open for business at all hours.
D’Alessandro said that he plans to bring up the sign ordinance at a Williams Bay Business Association meeting in January.
Among the business lights the village will not be able to control are those at gas stations.
During the committee meeting, Trustee Marsha Engquist said she was particularly concerned about the lights staying on at the gas stations in town.
Killian said that the gas station signs are under a separate state statute that controls their hours of operation. The local municipality has no control over that.
For example, gas stations are allowed to have revolving signs, something otherwise prohibited in Williams Bay.
“Their lobbyists were busy,” Killian said of the gas stations owners. “They are covered by state law.”
Trustee Don Parker also noted that there are buildings with “signs plastered all over a wall. It’s a clear violation of the ordinances.”
“We’re trying to get a consistency to our look,” he said.
He said he village board should consult with residents and the Williams Bay Business Association about signs.
“If you like what’s out there, you should allow it,” Parker said of the signs that may be in violation of the village ordinance. “If you don’t like it, then enforce it.”