Are some of the neon signs by Northfield’s businesses out of compliance?

Holiday station, Northfield Holiday station neon sign, Northfield Amcon station, Northfield
The Holiday gas station on N. Hwy 3 has a sign that’s outlined in blue neon. A local business owner recently remarked to me that he found it offensively bright.  For comparison see the adjacent Amcon gas station.

I checked the City of Northfield’s municipal code on Signage, Section 3.7 and found this:

3.7.9 Design Guidelines. The following standards are intended to direct the design elements of signage outside the downtown historic district. Each guideline shall be applied for each sign application based upon review by the city planner:

(A) Neon lights are permitted for messages and symbols, but shall not flash.

GBM windowWhile the neon isn’t flashing, it’s not being used for messages and symbols either, like the coffee cup neon sign in the window of Goodbye Blue Monday.

Is this a problem or much ado about nothing?

Update 7 am 3/28:

Sean Hayford O’Leary’s comment below prompted me to take photos of signs for Northfield businesses that appear to be out of compliance with Northfield’s ordinance that prohibits flashing neon lights:  Tobacco Field on Hwy 3; Downtown Tobacco on Division; and the HideAway Coffeehouse & Winebar on Division:

Tobacco Field flashing neon signs Tobacco Field flashing neon signs Tobacco Field flashing neon signs Downtown Tobacco animated neon sign HideAway animated/flashing neon sign

So I’ve changed the blog post title from:

Is the Holiday gas station sign outlined in blue neon in compliance?

to:

Are some of the neon signs by Northfield’s businesses out of compliance?

Here’s a 27-second video clip of the flashing/animated neons signs:

17 thoughts on “Are some of the neon signs by Northfield’s businesses out of compliance?”

  1. I hate the glare of that godawful Holiday sign, which is overwhelmingly bright and obtrusive, even from the east side of the river.

    As a result, I’ve stopped shopping there.

    Are we sure it’s even neon? It almost looks LED bright to me.

  2. It is really eye-catching. And unlike the LOGRO page, it does not screw up my computer. GRIFF FIX THAT SCRIP!

  3. I hate the sign also. It’s not as if folks didn’t notice there was a gas station there before. Now I just think I see police lights out of the corner of my eye and realize it’s that goddamn sign instead.

  4. Sean, your comment about Tobacco Field prompted me to take photos of it and other signs for Northfield businesses that appear to be out of compliance with Northfield’s ordinance that prohibits flashing neon lights: Downtown Tobacco on Division and the HideAway Coffeehouse & Winebar on Division. I’ve added photos and a video clip to the blog post above.

    I’ve also changed the blog post title from: “Is the Holiday gas station sign outlined in blue neon in compliance?” to “Are some of the neon signs by Northfield’s businesses out of compliance?”

    1. I will say, from a purely aesthetic perspective, I kind of feel like Tobacco Field is sort of, “it’s so bad, it’s good.” Holiday’s blue box is uselessly garish. But, regardless, I approve of the City enforcing their policy on neon.

  5. Apparently, some of you are lucky enough to not have to leave Northfield very often! I wish I didn’t have to commute, but because I do, I’ve noticed that pretty much every Holiday station around has these terrible blue neon signs now. It started sometime early last winter, I believe. The Northfield Holiday isn’t unique in their signage, relative to other stores in their chain, and I’m sure they didn’t have a choice in the matter. Whether or not it’s in compliance with city code was probably never considered.

      1. Oh, of course. I’m just suggesting that because it was a corporate move, the local ordinances may (or may not) have been overlooked.

        From the municipal code on signage, above:

        “Each guideline shall be applied for each sign application based upon review by the city planner: (A) Neon lights are permitted for messages and symbols, but shall not flash.”

        So, a few thoughts:
        A) Was there an application presented for review? If so, it must have been approved. If there wasn’t an application, should there have been? One could argue that it was an “upgrade” to an existing sign. Therefore, was an application technically necessary? Dunno.

        B) Is it a “symbol”? Not really. Is it a “message”? No. So what IS it?, and

        C) As annoying as the darn thing is, it doesn’t flash, so it meets that part of the criteria.

        I guess talking about the sundries of signage seems is way more interesting than my homework at the present moment. Procrastination via Locally Grown… 🙂

  6. Bob Will (chair of the HPC) stopped by my corner office this morning at GBM and said that if a flashing neon sign is inside the window of a storefront, then it’s not violating the city’s ordinance.

    So Downtown Tobacco’s and the HideAways’s signs are fine. And maybe Tobacco Field’s sign is too, if they’ve managed to do all that flashing from the inside.

    1. Griff, he seems to be referring to this:

      3.7.5 (f) Window Signs. Signs that are painted or attached to the interior windows that do not cover more than 50 percent of the window shall be exempt.

      While that would make GBM and others okay, that language is a tad ambiguous for Tobacco Field. While the actual sign structure is less than 50% of the window surface, the visual effect is that 100% of the window changes in color, repeatedly. I’d argue that the whole window is being used as a sign and that it should not be exempt.

      It also seems clear from all this that Holiday is not exempt.

    1. The linked article confirms that these are LED’s – which explains the glaring intensity of the Holiday’s blue lights, which you just wouldn’t get with traditional neon-type lights. Does the city have any regulations regarding the brightness of signage lights that would have any relevance?

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