Freedom Hill County Park earned its freedom to put up an upgraded sign with a bigger electronic screen at an April 18 Sterling Heights Zoning Board of Appeals special meeting.
Freedom Hill is preparing to open its first full-fledged summer season since 2009. Park officials plan to hire 200-300 part-time workers this year to help out with the season.
The Zoning Board approved a set of variances to replace the sign at Freedom Hill in a 4-0 vote. Board members Bruce Kremhelmer, Laura Szpont and Raymond Washburn were absent from the meeting.
The planned sign upgrade needed variances for a few reasons. Under the ordinance, an electronic message board is only allowed a maximum size of 100 square feet, and the Freedom Hill representatives want one that is 125 square feet.
The advocates also want the sign to operate constantly instead of just between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and they want sign images to move more than once every 30 seconds.
Lastly, they sought to sidestep a requirement of building a two-foot sign base made of masonry or brick.
City Planner Don Mende said the current ordinance allows freestanding signs that are “community bulletin boards“ on government entity parcels that are larger than 40 acres. Under the guidelines, the sign’s total size may be up to 300 square feet.
But Mende told ZBA Chairman Derek D’Angelo that the rules only make bulletin boards suitable at the city of Sterling Heights and Freedom Hill, which has a lease with Macomb County.
“We wouldn’t be seeing them pop up everywhere,” D’Angelo added.
Scott Gardner from Troy-based Gardner Signs said the replacement sign and its new, larger electronic board will employ the latest in efficient light-emitting diode technology. The sign will be able to dim and brighten in accordance with the time of day, he said.
Freedom Hill Amphitheatre general manager Kevin Cassidy said the sign will feature moving images to promote his venue’s entertainment lineup.
“There’s a lot of images that are associated with all these artists,” he said. “There’s images that are associated with those events that we want to be able to display to the public.”
Freedom Hill representatives said the sign will show pictures and video clips of performing artists, as well as city and county messages and alerts.
During the meeting, public speakers from the audience shared concerns about whether the sign could pose a distraction or feature images of scantily clad women.
Cassidy said the ads are approved for public consumption and would not feature explicit material.
“The advertisements that could potentially go on there, or the short video clips, would be nothing more than what you would see on Channel 7 if we were running a commercial in association with Lady Antebellum or any other act that we’d be bringing there,” Cassidy said.
“I’m more concerned about Lady Gaga,” D’Angelo replied.
City Attorney Clark Andrews said the city already has an adult entertainment ordinance that deals with imagery, and officials agreed that Freedom Hill must abide by that ordinance.
Freedom Hill County Park is located at 14900 Metropolitan Parkway in Sterling Heights. Learn more about Sterling Heights at www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489. See Freedom Hill’s summer event lineup at www.freedomhill.net.
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