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Mequon to limit late night illumination

River Club will be required to turn off luminous signs at midnight

Dec. 12, 2012

Mequon - The Planning Commission on Monday voted 4-2 to limit the hours of illumination for freestanding signs owned by the River Club of Mequon, with commissioners John Stoker and David Romoser dissenting.

After a number of residents complained they had seen the signs on throughout the night, the planning commission revisited its decision that the signs should be turned off when the business shuts down each night, as some signs could have been illuminated until 2 a.m.

After a lengthy discussion between commissioners, community members who live near the signs, and representatives from the River Club, the commission decided to make midnight the point at which the signs must be off.

"We thought that a 12 a.m. time was a fair compromise," River Club General Manager Ryan Doerr said.

Representatives from the River Club rejected an earlier city proposal to limit sign hours to 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, arguing that patrons come to the club and restaurant after 10 p.m. on weekdays and the directional nature of the signs help guide new customers. They said the signs were left on all night several times, but only because staff members didn't know how to work the timers.

"It was never a conscious, willful thing," River Club Marketing Director John Haines said. "It was us learning how to use these things."

He added that all of the sign timers have been set for midnight and checked by two separate electricians.

Eight residents turned out in favor of the change and nine turned out in opposition, though the majority of the remarks from either side indicated a general support for or opposition to the River Club and its public restaurant The Nines.

Opponents said the club has been noisy, especially during a summer outdoor concert series and that they are wary of having a bar in their neighborhood. They also mentioned a lingering sewage issue and referred to open space easements that were contested at a June common council meeting at which 79 residents argued for and against a proposal to develop 42 acres of land south of Freistadt Road along the Milwaukee River.

"Help protect our neighborhood," Ken Sosnowski of homeowner group Friends of Ville du Parc told the commission. "That's all we want."

Supporters of the club said the signs are necessary, and that residents should consider the investment River Club owner Tom Weickardt has made in the area and the positive effects on the surrounding area and property values before criticizing the club's actions.

"I hope the polarization ends and the nonsense ends," resident Neena Florsheim said.

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