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Scenic La Crosse

Keeping God's Country Beautiful


Billboards and Signs in La Crosse County: Overview

Four years ago a billboard was erected on HWY 16 without notice to neighbors on Milson Court across the road, blocking their view of the LaX River Marsh through their windows. This can happen anywhere where legislation isn’t in place.

Recently, it was converted to an electronic billboard, again without any notice to neighbors.

“It looks like a television screen sitting on my deck running day and night.” - Neighbor

“It is 350 feet from my bedroom window, and my backyard is lit up all night long.” - Milson Ct. Neighbor

“What about my property value? Who will want to buy my house now?” - Milson Ct. Neighbor

Click here to see a short photo overview of our local story (pdf file)

A 200 sqf (each side) on-premises digital LED sign in the Town of Bangor adjacent to I-90.
Currently only a few of the 12 towns in the County have any standards for signs, so almost anything goes.

What Local Residents And Business People Are Saying

Several hundred people have contacted La Crosse County Board and City Council members, and have attended and/or spoken at meetings throughout the county. They’ve expressed anger about conversion of the Hwy 16 billboard to electronic, and the excess of signs and billboard of all types in our area. They want improved legislation for outdoor signs.

Click here to see some of the many concerns expressed by residents and business owners

Reasons To Develop Good Sign Legislation In The La Crosse Area

We are Overrun with Billboards and Signs

  • · La Crosse, with 278 faces has the 2nd highest number in the state - only Milwaukee has more.
  • · La Crosse has 278 billboard faces. Eau Claire has 50.
  • · La Crosse County, with about 400 faces, is 7th of 72 counties in Wisconsin.
  • · Wisconsin has the 5th highest number in the nation.
  • · More than 700 U.S. communities prohibit new billboards and/or electronic signs.
  • · Four states have outlawed billboards completely.
  • · 80% of LaX County agreed the appearance of business signs should be regulated -2008 Comprehensive Plan.
  • · 84% of LaX County residents agreed that new billboards should be limited -2008.

We Have Inadequate Regulation

  • · Sign companies are legally erecting billboards and signs facing windows of local residences and businesses.
  • · Local property owners have no rights, despite ruined views, “hidden” businesses, and potential impact on property values.
  • · All the electronic billboards proposed for the Coulee Region thus far would shine in windows of homes, apartments, offices, businesses, and assisted living and long-term care centers.

For more information click here

Local Studies Point To Billboard And Sign Control

La Crosse County Land Use Policy Survey, 2008

80% agreed that “The appearance of business signs along highways should be regulated by local governments.”

84% agreed that “The additions of new billboards along the interstate and highways should be limited.”

Mormon Coulee/Town of Shelby Visual Preference Survey, 2004

The survey results also show that commercial development is strongly discouraged in the Town of Shelby. If any is to occur, it must blend in with its residential surroundings through design and landscaping and commercial signage must be kept at a minimum.

Town of Onalaska Comprehensive Plan, 2005, Goals, Policies, Objectives, Actions 71

Promote the removal of billboards and other large signs.

First Impressions Report for the City of La Crosse, 2007

The Hwy 16 exit #5 approach to the city was breathtaking with the powerful beauty of the bluffs; however, a proliferation of billboards marred the experience.

Confluence: The La Crosse Comprehensive Plan Elements (2002)

Improve the design of commercial signs through adoption of sign design standards. Consider adopting an ordinance requiring amortization of off-premise advertising within 30 years.

For more information click here

Billboard Control Is Good For Business

"Billboards contribute a minuscule amount to our economic well-being, but they impose a high cost. They detract from Colorado's attractiveness to tourists and from the pleasant surroundings for our residents." -The Honorable Richard Lamm, former Governor of Colorado More than 700 communities nationwide prohibit the construction of new billboards. Why? Because billboard control improves community character and quality of life -- both of which directly impact local economies. In fact, despite billboard industry claims to the contrary, communities and states that enact tough billboard controls enjoy strong economic growth.

For more information click here

Safety Concerns

Comments from highly regarded safety expert, Jerry Wachtel, about the dangers of billboards and signs:

A two-second distraction of any kind more than doubles the risk of a crash or near crash. Drivers take their eyes off the road for two seconds or longer twice as often when they are looking at digital advertising signs than when they are looking at traditional billboards— or no billboards at all.

For more information, click here

Driven To Distraction: Digital Billboards, Diversions Drivers Can’t Escape

By Matt Richtel, New York Times, March 1, 2010

Abby Dart . . . calls the signs “weapons of mass distraction” ... “

You can turn off your phone,” she said. “The billboard gets your attention whether you want to give it or not.”

To read this article, click here (pdf file)

Environmental Impact: Energy, Waste, Light, And Aesthetics


  • · A digital sign can use about 46 times the power of a typical billboard and 30 times the average home.
  • · The LED lights create so much heat that the billboards need to be air conditioned in warm weather.


  • · Digital signage does generate more waste to be recycled than the paper, vinyl sheets, and plywood or canvas facing of static billboards.


  • · Signs become brightest objects in the landscape, dominating and change the fundamental character of the place.
  • · Distraction from other visual/scenic qualities.
  • · 500 or even 1000’ separation from neighborhoods is not enough to prevent light pollution
  • · Clash with historic or established architectural elements, even at great distances.

For more information click here

Billboards: The Case For Control, By Edward T. McMahon


...Billboards are also one of the least effective forms of advertising. Billboards represent less than two percent of total advertising in the United States. At best, they are a secondary form of advertising that is used to reinforce ads in other media.

To read the article, click here (pdf file)

Sign Overload Causes Negative Mental And Physical Effects

A recent Texas A&M University study is the first to determine that this type of sprawl contributes to commuter stress. After being subjected to stressful situations, the subjects took simulated commutes along either of two kinds of roads: blighted by billboards, sprawl, and strip development, or unspoiled and rural in character. Stress levels declined quickly for those driving rural roads, but remained high for those exposed to strip developments. Stressed drivers experienced higher blood pressure, heart rate and respiration, and increased eye movements and facial muscle activity.

Finding A Solution That Is Good For Residents, Business, And Tourists

The Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Knight Soul of the Community project in 2008 with these questions in mind. After interviewing close to 43,000 people in 26 communities over three years, the study has found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces).