Appeal underway for business district signs

The Minnesota Department of Transportation apparently did not have Norwood Young America in mind when it set a policy allowing cities to indicate only one primary business district with green way-finding signs on state highways around town.

As a result of the city’s divided past, both a north and south business district exist in NYA. However, only the south business district is marked with signs on Highway 212 — a situation the NYA City Council, in conjunction with the chamber of commerce and economic development commission, hopes to change.

The council approved a variance request with an appeal to MnDOT to install additional signage for the north business district near Tacoma Avenue and Highway 212 during its meeting on Monday, Oct. 22.

According to Economic Development Coordinator Christie Rock, MnDOT conducted a study in NYA over the summer and concluded that there was room for north business district signage at that location if the city requested a variance.

The study also revealed a problem, however. While there is currently signage for the north business district on Highway 5, those signs violate MnDOT’s policy and will likely be removed depending on the outcome of the variance appeal.

“Without a variance, the city will need to choose which business district it would like to sign, the north or the south,” Rock told the council in a memorandum.

In one other sign-related note, MnDOT indicated in its study that the existing south business district signage is smaller than it could be, and the city could pay to install larger signs without going through the variance process.

Rock cautioned that MnDOT’s variance committee meets infrequently so the appeal process could take some time, and that there was no guarantee the appeal would be successful. However, there is no cost to the city to make the variance request, unless that request is approved and action is taken.

If the appeal is successful, the total cost to replace existing signs with larger models and add north business district signs on Highway 212 would be $6,282.50. Simply replacing the south district signs with larger signs, which could be done without variance approval, would cost $2,061.60.

“We need to do this. We need to support our businesses,” said Mayor Tina Diedrick prior to a unanimous vote to make the variance appeal. “This just makes sense.”