Cole can see at least four signs from her living room, including the 72-foot-long Bremer bank sign with its 14-foot tall letters.There's an element of chicken and egg here, not unlike when people move near existing airports, shooting clubs or racetracks.
If only Cole had known that her bazillion-dollar downtown pad was going to have such debilitating windows and such, uh, oppressive views of the city. Of course, now that she's there, the rest of the world has to conform to her whims.
(City Councilman Dave) Thune and others say the illumination problem has worsened in recent years as people are living closer to the signs. Residential buildings are getting taller and more older buildings are being converted for use as lofts and condominiums.
"I don't think it has been an issue in the past," said Wendy Lane, manager of the St. Paul zoning department, which is charged with monitoring signs. Lane said the Bremer sign meets all city regulations for size and brightness. Also, the city measured the luminosity of the sign in August and found it well below the legal limit.
(Thune will) introduce legislation in coming weeks to force businesses to turn off building signs or at least dim them. Lane warns, though, that even if the changes are passed, the problem won't disappear. "The zoning ordinance does not apply retroactively," she said recently. "So if there was a measure passed by the council it would not apply to the Bremer bank sign."I used the term "whim" intentionally. Cole herself likes the tallest neon sign in the city, and says that's part of the reason she moved downtown:
"I love the views," she said. "In fact, I bought my place in part because I could see the [blinking red neon] First Bank sign. It's kind of historic."So the 3-story neon '1' on the top of the First National Bank Building is charming, but there are other building toppers she doesn't like? There is no way to satisfy someone so wishy-washy. How do you write an ordinance for people who are ultimately unable to deal with the decisions they've made? For that matter, how would you like to wait on Cole's table; "Yea, I know I ordered the fish blackened, but this is so . . . black."
One more thing: In case you were wondering whose side the StarTribune is on here, take a good look at their accompanying photo above. If you can get past Cole's scowl, you'll see a tell-tale shadow along her right side. The photographer used a relatively long shutter to overexpose the skyline and make it appear brighter than it ever would to the human eye. Remember how Time Magazine got slaughtered for darkening OJ Simpson's otherwise unremarkable mug shot on their cover . . .