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Resident Criticizes Heritage Commission’s Decision Allowing Illuminated, LED Signs Downtown

Certificates of appropriateness were approved for a metal roof and a wooden fence during the January 22 meeting of the city of Ste. Genevieve’s Heritage Commission.

The meeting also saw a member of the public criticize the commission for a recent decision on lighted and LED signs in the historic district.

After approving requests to install a standing-seam metal roof at 331 Washington St. and a wooden picket fence at 268 North Third St., the commission was harangued over its November 19 decision to allow Michael Mills to place half of a large lighted sign at 181 Washington St.

Jennifer “Olive” Kraus, who is restoring the historic First School Day Care building across the street at 145 N. Washington St., spoke during the public comment time at the end of the meeting.

“The word I’ve used most often from other business owners to describe their reaction to this is ‘shocked,’” Kraus said while reading from a statement. “It is deeply troubling to me that only one member of this committee opposed such a thing. Other downtown business owners are told no illuminated signs, period, in the historic district. This discrepancy is confusing and troubling. While the building itself may not be a contributing structure, it is firmly situated smack-dab in the downtown historic district, 45 feet from a National Landmark building.”

The location in question, formerly the Ste. Genevieve Aerie 4336 Eagles’ Lodge, is not considered a contributing structure to the historic district, but is directly across the street from Kraus’ circa 1850 school house, notable for being the city’s black school during the days of segregated education.

Mills plans to move his restaurant, Buddy’s Place, from Highway 61, where he has an internally illuminated sign over an LED message board, to Washington Street.

The LED sign was rejected by the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission, and that decision was accepted by the Board of Aldermen. Mills has said he plans to seek an appeal on that decision, but that also would go before the Board of Aldermen.

The lighted sign for Buddy’s Place restaurant also was approved by the Heritage Commission and is allowed by city codes, thus neither the Planning & Zoning Commission nor the aldermen had grounds to reverse the decision.

“You cannot create a district with historical design guidelines and then pick and choose who must conform and who is exempt based on personal relationships or personal politics; this is not a gray area,” Kraus continued. “The installation of a plastic illuminated cabinet sign and flashing LED sign affect the tone and character of not just one business, not just one building but all surrounding neighbors and neighborhood.

“People come to Ste. Genevieve to escape the tackiness of modern life. Why plan a romantic get-away in a historic inn when you can see a plastic flashing LED sign from your room? Why choose to invest in the restoration of an historic building when no one cares enough to preserve the historic character of the neighborhood?”

Heritage Commission members who approved the signs in a 6-1 vote in November said that the signs were not permanent and that lighted signs already did exist in the downtown district.

See complete story in the January 30 edition of the Herald.

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