Crestwood decides against electronic sign moratorium


Photo by Erin Achenbach

Scott Credit Union in Crestwood uses an electronic messaging sign.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

A six-month moratorium on electronic messaging signs was rejected by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen at the Jan. 22 meeting, after City Planner Adam Jones presented a study on nearby cities and their electronic messaging sign ordinances.

In November 2018, the Planning and Zoning Commission ordered Jones to survey nearby community ordinances regarding electronic message centers. The commission had interest in seeing what communities prohibit or restrict this type of signage as they have grown increasingly prevalent along the Watson Road corridor, according to a memorandum from Jones to the Board of Aldermen.

“This is something we really don’t want to see our city turn into, the ‘Las Vegas’ of St. Louis so to speak,” said Commissioner Greg Zipfel at the Nov. 7 meeting of the planning panel.

According to the results of a survey of nine nearby communities, Jones found that two banned electronic messaging signs outright, Maplewood and Webster Groves. Kirkwood has an ordinance prohibiting signs in downtown and only allows them in certain parts of the city.

After the survey, the planning panel voted unanimously Jan. 2 for a moratorium on electronic signs in Crestwood while their impact is studied.

“When I saw this on the agenda, my thought was ‘overdue,’” said Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel during the board’s public hearing on the moratorium. “Talking with a resident about tonight’s meeting, asked me what was on the agenda and I mentioned…the moratorium and that resident’s response was ‘Thank God.’”

Ward 4 Alderman Tony Kennedy had a different perspective.

“You know one of the things we don’t want to do is be an impediment to new businesses that are looking into developing in Crestwood,” said Kennedy. “So I would be concerned about a moratorium that might impact companies.”

Mayor Grant Mabie seconded those concerns.

“To me, having a moratorium is an odd snapshot in time where you say we have existing code and existing law in the books but we’re not going to follow it, and I don’t think that’s a good process to follow,” said Mabie. “It creates uncertainty and that’s kind of the enemy of business… With our P and Z (Planning and Zoning) looking at the sign code, looking at the zoning code, there’s no reason we can’t go through the regular order and update these things.”

Mabie added that Watson Road was already a commercialized corridor with a number of electronic messaging signs.

“Seventy-five percent of our revenues comes from the business community and I think in the distant past, Crestwood had a reputation for being anti-business, I think we moved past that, and I worry that this is a step in the wrong direction.”

The only public comment during the hearing came from Farnsworth Group principal Bob Polk, who was representing McDonald’s in an earlier public hearing the same night.

Polk clarified the differences in the types of electronic messaging signs that businesses use, like restaurants menus of ATMS in businesses versus LCD messaging boards placed in public spaces.

In 2018, Crestwood had three applicants for electronic messaging boards, from Scott Credit Union, Page Law and Rich & Charlie’s.

The moratorium failed to pass by a vote of five to three. Ward 2 Alderman Mary Statder, Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel and Ward 4 Alderman Ismaine Ayouaz voted in favor of the moratorium, while Ward 2 Alderman Justin Charboneau, Ward 3 Alderman Greg Hall, Ward 4 Alderman Tony Kennedy and both Ward 1 aldermen Richard Breeding and Mimi Duncan voting against the moratorium.