Their function is obvious. Then again, their form is, too.
“It’s a horrible visual clutter,” says Laura Peters of the Merle Hay Neighborhood Association.
“It just doesn’t look good,” says another association member, Jason Pulliam.
And technology is making things worse. Peters says she noticed from her kitchen window.
“I thought I was going crazy,” says Peters,” and I realized that I was seeing the digital billboard that’s sitting at the corner of Merle Hay and Hickman.”
Neighbors say Merle Hay Road has improved a lot, but this is the next step.
“In my view,” says Pulliam, “they look like they’re more appropriate for an interstate highway than a city street with a 35 MPH speed limit.”
Monday night, they found receptive ears in the council chambers.
“I don’t like pole signs,” says councilman, Halley Griess, whose ward includes the Merle Hay neighborhood.
“I understand why businesses like pole signs, but I would love to see a transition toward monument signs.”
Many suburbs have already banned larger signs in favor of monument styles, but in older neighborhoods, it’s tougher.
“This is one of the most frustrating issues that I have come across,” says Mayor Frank Cownie.
Businesses can’t be forced into a change.
Monday night, the council told the neighborhood associations they liked the plan, but needed their help in working with the business owners.
“We have very cooperative relationships with the businesses in our neighborhood,” Pulliam says. “We don’t always agree, but we have good relationships and I think they’ll be happy to have the discussion with us.”
Streetscape projects have proved fruitful in other Des Moines neighborhoods, and businesses here could benefit, too. A good view can be hard to beat.
“In a meeting that I was in earlier this week,” Peters says, “people were saying ‘Iowa has the best skies that you see anywhere.’ Let’s celebrate that.”