2019 Sign Code Update

The City of Monona recently updated its Sign Ordinance; the guiding documentation for signage in the City. The changes modernize the regulations while increasing user-friendliness through the reorganization and enhanced document design reflecting modern business signage practices.

The rewrite took roughly a year from start to finish, with the Ordinance formally adopted by City Council on May 20, 2019. There was input from City staff, a project-specific Steering Committee, the Plan Commission, the City’s consultant, Vandewalle & Associates, as well as public feedback collected at meetings and open houses.

Most of the edits to the Ordinance do not change current rules for sign location, size or overall number. Instead, the document was tuned to reflect regulations and practices that have been working well in the City for many years, to offer greater sign type flexibility, and to conform to a recent Supreme Court decision.

Below is a summary of the main changes to the Ordinance:

New Sign Types Added
Order Board
BladeSandwich Board
SuspendedInstitutional Information
Menu BoardTemporary Miscellaneous Signs (Yard Signs)
  • Reorganized the signs into categories by type with regulation by Zoning District rather than using Overlay Sign Districts.
  • Four new sign type categories were defined:
  • Permanent Business – Traditional sign type including wall and monument signs
  • Temporary Business – Short-term signs that draw attention to the site; some include display limits
  • Permanent Miscellaneous – Typically on building signage and identification
  • Temporary Miscellaneous – Permitted yard signs
  • Made edits to bring the Ordinance into compliance with the Reed v. Gilbert Supreme Court decision which ruled that Ordinances may regulate the size of signs but that they must remain content-neutral.
  • Codified many administrative practices already being used by the Plan Commission and City staff to clearly outline the process, expectations, and specific regulations.

Another addition to the Ordinance is the inclusion of tables and graphics to describe different sign types (link). This, in conjunction with the updated text, should give a greater understanding of each sign type and what sign options are available where.

There had been a lot of community discussion regarding yard signs and how these should be regulated while still remaining content neutral. The new Ordinance allows for two signs per site, with additional signs permitted for electoral purposes during any local, state, or federal election. The Ordinance also provides greater clarity regarding where signs can be located on the property (link), which will be particularly useful for yard signs.

The Ordinance broadened the type of signs allowable in Monona, but there are still a handful of sign types that aren’t permitted. This includes large board signs (temporary signage category), as well as feather and air dancer type signs. Moving signs have always been prohibited, mainly because of their potential to distract passing drivers.

Existing signs are not impacted by the change and do not need to apply for any new permits. Any new signs or those that physically alter or update will need to be brought into conformance with the new regulations. City staff are happy to help property owners understand what their signage options are and to discuss what would be permitted at their property. City Planner Doug Plowman can be reached at (608) 222-2525 or dplowman@ci.monona.wi.us.