BELOIT — The Beloit City Council acted on Monday to amend the city’s sign ordinance related to pedestrian bridges following a controversy related to a Black Lives Matter sign on the Beloit College Powerhouse walkway last month.
The council voted unanimously to update the ordinance to specifically regulate signs on pedestrian bridges in the city that connect private property at Beloit College and Frito Lay.
All future signs would need a permit, proof of liability insurance, sign restrictions and time restraints, but the city cannot regulate content of the sign.
“This city’s sign ordinance is antiquated and a small step in the right direction to update the ordinance to be consistent with changing times,” said Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther.
Last month, the city received complaints and support for a Black Lives Matter banner that was affixed to the Powerhouse pedestrian bridge. Following the outcry, the college chose to remove the signs and placed the banner on the Flood Auditorium on the college campus.
On Tuesday, Beloit College Marketing and Communications Representative Whitney Helm said the college would be weighing its options to decide what to do next.
“The confusion over rules regarding signs on the college’s pedestrian bridge was distressing and disappointing for our campus community,” Helm said. “Our goal was and is to support our students, faculty, staff and neighbors by making a simple ethical statement. We are grateful that the City of Beloit took the initiative to clarify the rules, and for the clarification itself. Once the ordinance is published, we will work with our campus community to consider next steps and continue to follow all appropriate guidelines.”
In response to questions from councilors regarding any signs that had divisive or hateful messages on bridges, Luther said the city had “a level of community trust” with the college and Frito Lay that they would not post harmful messages.
Council President Regina Dunkin said she was proud of city staff for drafting the new ordinance.
“This will bring us together because we are one community,” Dunkin said. “I believe this is a good policy for going forward for an even stronger partnership with Beloit College and Frito Lay.”