NORTH MANKATO —
A Port Authority grant request for PJ’s Liquor in North Mankato turned into a long discussion on banner signs.
Brock Larsen was asking for a $6,567 grant toward a $20,000 renovation project for his Belgrade Avenue store that includes a new heating system and a digital sign outside the business.
During their meeting Tuesday morning, commissioners asked whether helping subsidize the sign meant there would be no more temporary vinyl signs hanging on the outside of the liquor store and whether the signs were legal.
“Those signs shouldn’t be there,” said acting City Administrator Mike Fischer. He said anyone wanting to put up a temporary sign needs to apply for and pay for a permit.
Larsen said he’d be glad to stop using them Ñ if everyone else did, too. “I have no problem if it’s a level playing field. I shouldn’t have to take my signs down when up and down the street they have them.”
Fischer admitted the ordinance is routinely violated and virtually no one gets a permit to erect one. “It’s our biggest, toughest enforcement issue.”
He said past attempts to deal with the issue were time consuming and the signs quickly go back up on all sorts of businesses in Lower and Upper North Mankato.
Some commission members wondered if they could require Larsen to take down the other signs if the Port Authority authorized a grant toward a new sign.
“I’m torn about giving taxpayer money for a sign when all these other temporary signs are up,” said commissioner Greg Abbott.
But commissioners ultimately decided they shouldn’t single out Larsen and that the temporary sign debate was better left to the City Council, not the economic development commission. Larsen’s grant request was unanimously approved with no strings attached.
Mayor Mark Dehen, who also sits on the Port Authority, said he would ask the city’s Planning and Zoning department to take a new look at the sign ordinance.
The Port Authority unanimously approved three other grant requests for downtown business improvement:
Ñ Up to $5,000 to the owners of the building on the corner of Range Street and Belgrade Avenue , which houses K-9 Pet Grooming a hair salon and apartments. The funds will be used for a $13,221 renovation of some of the apartments.
Ñ A $1,778 grant towards $5,364 in window replacement at the Motor Registration building at 310 Belgrade.
Ñ A $13,800 grant to Jeff Kenne towards construction of a new garage behind the corner building that was a former Laundromat and now houses Southern Minnesota Surgical.