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Ottertail council rejects clinic sign

A proposal by the Ottertail Area Medical Clinic (a service of Tri-County Hospital) to build a new, larger sign on their property was rejected by the Ottertail City Council at their regular meeting on September 4.

In order to meet city requirements, the sign would have needed a variance, due to its dimensions exceeding the limits set in the city's sign ordinance. The Ottertail ordinance specifies that the overall signage be less than 128 square feet. The clinic's proposed sign totaled 175.2 square feet, 47.2 feet over the limit.

At public hearing for their variance request, the clinic mentioned that the plan was for their sign to look "similar to the current First National Bank sign, keeping with the aesthetics of the area." The First National Bank sign was erected after the city's sign ordinance was passed, and the council approved a variance for the bank's sign.

Comments from members of the council addressed this issue. One of the primary reasons given for why the bank's sign was approved was that the bank is on an open and expansive lot, with no other signage on the property.

In contrast, the lot the clinic sits on already exceeds the city's minimum limit for impervious surface area. In addition, there are other large signs in close proximity to the proposed site for the clinic's sign.

There were two primary reasons clinic representatives gave for why the council should approve their sign proposal. First, the point was stressed that a new sign would increase the visibility of the clinic. An example was given of one man who recently had trouble locating the clinic after he was stung by a bee and needed immediate medical attention.

The second reason given for why the clinic needs the new sign was that the location is set back farther from the other signs drivers see when driving north on Highway 78.

In response to the first reason given by the clinic, Ottertail city coordinator Lee Sherman suggested that they look into getting an official clinic sign that can be placed on the side of the highway. Sherman expressed his opinion that this type of a sign might be more beneficial to both the clinic and the city--and would provide a recognizable sign alerting motorists of the proximity of a local clinic.

"I tend to agree with Lee about the blue signs being an eye catcher," said councilmember Don Patrick, voicing his approval of Sherman's suggestion about investigating the possibility of obtaining an official clinic sign.

Patrick also mentioned how he was shocked to hear that the clinic even wanted to spend the money to create a new sign. Several members of the council said how pleased they were with the clinic's existing sign.

Clinic representatives said they had always looked at their existing sign as temporary. Once they had raised the necessary funds, they wanted to move forward with upgrading the sign to a larger, truss-type, internally lit sign.

"We have a very beautiful clinic that we built three years ago," said Nate Henderson, with Tri-County Hospital. "Over the years, we've been trying to upgrade and signage came up as the next thing on our list." The opinion was expressed that the new sign would be both more professional in appearance and more prominent.

After much discussion the Ottertail City Council unanimously voted to deny the clinic's request for a variance.

"If we have a sign ordinance, we shouldn't just give variances for every little thing," said councilmember Arlette Carlson. "I like the sign, but hopefully it could be made a little smaller."