Meeting on downtown signs will discuss regulations, good and bad

An empty frame hangs outside of Dean Stucky’s small business on Main Street.

The owner of Stucky’s Vacuum, 119 E. Main St., said he was forced to remove his business sign when the city of Marshalltown deemed it was unfit. He’s been without a sign since the store opened at the downtown location in February.

“It is absolutely not fair,” Stucky said. “They said my sign was not historically correct because, quote, ‘it’s ugly and gaudy.’ I’m very upset.”

Stucky’s opinion, and others, will be heard at an upcoming meeting to discuss Marshalltown’s guidelines for signs.

The signage guidelines changed about 18 months ago.

Stephen Troskey, city planner, said since the change he heard different opinions about the new guidelines.

“The issue we’ve heard is the rules are to restrictive for some business owners,” Troskey said. “It’s interesting because other people say they aren’t restrictive enough. We are kind of caught between two different philosophies right now.”

Before a business in the historic downtown district hangs a sign, it has to be approved by the volunteer-run Site Planning Review Board.

Every sign is approved or denied on a case by case basis. The type of signs varies by the building it would go on. According to the guidelines for signs and awnings, each sign must be well-designed and reflect Marshalltown’s historic character.

An open discussion meeting about the signage guidelines will be held at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 18 at Marshalltown Council Chambers, 10 W. State St. The meeting is open to the public and will be facilitated by the Housing & Community Development Department staff. No decisions or voting will be made.

“We really just want to get the community’s opinion on it,” Troskey said. “We are asking business owners, property owners and companies to come out so we can have an open discussion about where we are right now and where should we be.”

Jenny Etter, Marshalltown Central Business District executive director, said the meeting will get a handle on more of what people think.

“I’m interested in their opinion and how we can make this better for everybody,” Etter said.

The discussion points will be the current strengths and weaknesses of the regulation, opportunities for improvement and threats to success.