Street Beautification and Neighborhood Image-Building

Neighborhood Identification Signs

Custom-designed neighborhood identification signs beautify City streetscapes, strengthen community identity and pride among residents, and increase city-wide recognition of each neighborhood. A neighborhood sign project is an excellent opportunity for neighborhood residents to work together in designing and siting a permanent neighborhood landmark. The process of designing and raising funds for a neighborhood sign can fortify neighborhood cohesion. The City approval process for neighborhood identification signs depends on whether the proposed site is in the public Right-of-Way or on private property.

Neighborhood Signs in the Right-of-Way

Locations in the public Right-of-Way that are potentially appropriate for neighborhood identification signs include the street terrace (the space that lies between the sidewalk and the curb), median strips, and traffic islands. Neighborhood signs in the public Right-of-Way require a Common Council resolution sponsored by your district Alderperson and a Street Graphics Permit from the Zoning Section.

How To Get Started:

v     Identify potential sign site(s). Identify a neighborhood street that represents a gateway into your neighborhood and an entrance point along this street where a neighborhood identification sign would be visible without obstructing pedestrian and vehicular vision.

v     Contact your district Alderperson. Support from your district Alderperson is recommended for neighborhood sign proposals.

v     Contact the Real Estate Section. Real Estate staff will consider the feasibility of your proposed site before providing application materials. Feasibility criteria include whether a neighborhood sign at the proposed site would obstruct traffic and pedestrian visibility, limit access to a fire hydrant, or in any way conflict with public safety standards. If your proposed site appears feasible, Real Estate staff will explain how to prepare an Application for Privilege in Streets.

v     Contact sign companies. Contact sign companies to obtain information on sign styles, materials, cost estimates, and willingness to custom-design a sign in cooperation with your neighborhood association. Provide sign companies with information on City requirements relating to sign size and distance from curbs, fire hydrants, and other items in the Right-of-Way. Many sign producers are willing to provide preliminary designs and cost estimates free of charge. Information and drawings resulting from these preliminary contacts will be helpful aids at neighborhood meetings. 

v     Organize neighborhood meeting(s) for design input and fundraising. Organize a neighborhood meeting to present preliminary sign concepts to neighborhood residents and businesses; obtain input on design decisions; garner neighborhood support for the project; and develop fundraising strategies. Several design-related meetings are often needed, each one improving an evolving neighborhood sign design.

v     Submit Application for Privilege in Streets to the Real Estate Section. An Application for Privilege in Streets requires a sketch plan that indicates the proposed location of the sign as well as any proposed landscaping improvements. Upon request, the $500 Privilege in Streets application fee may be waived for neighborhood identification sign proposals. Real Estate staff will forward your application to the Privilege in Streets Committee. If your application is approved by the Privilege in Streets Committee, your district Alderperson will work with Real Estate staff to prepare a resolution to submit to the Common Council.

v     Submit Street Graphics Permit application to the Zoning Section. In addition to Common Council approval, a Street Graphics Permit is required for neighborhood signs in the public Right-of-Way. A Street Graphics Permit (which regulates sign size, material, and location) requires a fee of $1.75 per square foot of sign face area.

v     Comply with conditions of Common Council Resolution and Street Graphics Permit. Sign installation can proceed in accordance with the conditions of the Common Council resolution and the Street Graphics Permit. While conditions vary on a case-by-case basis, they typically include: 1) the sign-proposing neighborhood association assumes responsibility for sign purchase, installation, and maintenance; 2) the City assumes full ownership of the sign to simplify insurance and liability issues; and 3) the City retains the right to order sign removal (given 10 days written notice) if maintenance is inadequate or if the sign conflicts with a future public use of the Right-of-Way.

Contact:

Jerry Lund, Real Estate Section

Municipal Building, Rm. 332

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 267-8718 Fax: 261-6126

e-mail: jlund@cityofmadison.com 

 

Zoning Section

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI, 53703

Phone: 266-4569 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: bldginspect@cityofmadison.com 

Neighborhood Signs on Private Property

In some cases, a private property site may be the most appropriate location for a neighborhood sign. Neighborhood signs on private property require consent from the property owner, approval from the Planning Unit, and a Street Graphics Permit from the Zoning Section.

How To Get Started:

v     Identify potential sign site(s). Identify a neighborhood street that represents a gateway into your neighborhood and an entrance point along this street where a neighborhood identification sign would be visible without obstructing pedestrian and vehicular vision. 

v     Contact property owner. If you are considering a private property site, contact the property owner to discuss your proposed site. If you do not know who owns the property, contact the City Assessor’s Office at 266-4531.

v     Contact your district Alderperson. Support from your district Alderperson is recommended for neighborhood sign proposals. 

v     Contact the Planning Unit and the Zoning Section. If your proposed site appears feasible, Planning and Zoning staff will explain how your neighborhood association and your Alderperson can prepare a sketch plan and a Street Graphics Permit application.

v     Contact sign companies. Contact sign companies to obtain information on sign styles, materials, cost estimates, and willingness to custom-design a sign in cooperation with your neighborhood association. Provide sign companies with information on City requirements relating to sign size and distance from curbs, fire hydrants, and other items in the Right-of-Way. Many sign producers are willing to provide preliminary designs and cost estimates free of charge. Information and visual aids resulting from these preliminary contacts will be helpful aids at neighborhood meetings.

v     Organize neighborhood meeting(s) for design input and fundraising. Organize a neighborhood meeting to present preliminary sign concepts to neighborhood residents and businesses, obtain input on design decisions, garner neighborhood support for the project, and develop fundraising strategies. Several design-related meetings are often needed, each one improving an evolving neighborhood sign design with more neighborhood input.

v     Submit sketch plan and Street Graphics Permit application to the Zoning Section. Based on advice from Planning staff, your sketch plan must meet requirements relating to sign size, distance from Right-of-Way features, and traffic and pedestrian safety. Your application must be approved by the Planning Unit and the Zoning Section. A Street Graphics Permit (which regulates sign size, material, and location) requires a fee of $1.75 per square foot of sign face area.

Successful Implementation: Bay Creek Neighborhood Welcome Sign

“There were times,” recalls Ron Shutvet of the Bay Creek Neighborhood Association (BCNA), “when we had trouble seeing the finish line in our neighborhood sign project. It was our first big project and we weren’t sure if we could raise the necessary funds or develop a sign image that enough people would support. In hindsight, I know that it was merely a matter of time and patience. What began with a handful of people is now a neighborhood landmark recognized by thousands of City residents.” BCNA utilized neighborhood newsletters, neighborhood meetings, and door-to-door visits to keep residents up-to-date on the project and raise funds. The sign image was gradually developed through a series of neighborhood meetings with the volunteer assistance of a local graphic artist. With proposal guidance from City staff and increasing design participation by residents, fundraising became easier and easier. BCNA raised contributions from over 60 households and businesses. Bancroft Dairy provided the sign site on its property at the corner of Fish Hatchery Road and Park Street. Now a familiar landmark, the sign depicts the Bay Creek neighborhood bounded by Wingra Creek on one side and Lake Monona on the other, including a view of the State Capitol Building and Monona Terrace. Ironically, while the neighborhood sign project initially inspired fundraising fears, BCNA is now planning to raise funds by selling t-shirts and coffee mugs imprinted with the sign’s image. “It simply takes time and patience,” Shutvet reiterates, “for your plan to come together.”

v     Comply with conditions of Street Graphics Permit. Sign installation can proceed in accordance with the conditions of the Street Graphics Permit. The Street Graphics Permit will stipulate ongoing maintenance requirements and the persons or group responsible for sign maintenance. The City retains the right to order sign removal if sign maintenance is inadequate.

Contact:

Archie Nicolette

Planning Division

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4635 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: planning@cityofmadison.com 

 

Zoning Section

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI, 53703

Phone: 266-4569 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: bldginspect@cityofmadison.com 

Street Plantings and Landscaping

Green spaces adjacent to public streets are great places for citizens and neighborhood associations to enhance the natural beauty of their neighborhoods with attractive plantings and landscaping. As long as City public safety and maintenance standards are met, the only limits to street planting and landscaping projects are the imagination and volunteer maintenance commitment of neighborhood residents.

For City approval purposes, there are three different kinds of street planting and landscaping projects: plantings and landscaping on median strips and traffic islands, plantings and landscaping on the street terrace, and tree plantings on the street terrace.

Plantings and Landscaping on Median Strips and Traffic Islands

Plantings and landscaping on median strips and traffic islands require approval from the Parks Division.

How To Get Started:

v     Identify potential planting and/or landscaping site(s). Identify median strips and/or traffic islands in your neighborhood that may be appropriate sites for planting and landscaping improvements.

v     Contact the Parks Outreach Coordinator. The Parks Outreach Coordinator will consult with proper staff to determine whether your proposed site is appropriate for a planting and/or landscaping project. If the site is given preliminary approval, the Outreach Coordinator will explain how to prepare a planting plan.

v     Inform your district Alderperson of your proposal. Informing your district Alderperson of your proposal is recommended.

v     Prepare a planting plan for the proposed location. A planting plan should be as specific as possible regarding the varieties and sizes of your proposed plantings; the length and width of your proposed planting and landscaping plot; and the plot’s location relative to intersections, fire hydrants, signs, sidewalks, curbs, and private property lines. Someone in your neighborhood may be willing to donate their expertise to assist in designing a planting plan.

v     Submit planting plan to Outreach Coordinator. Your proposal will be reviewed by Parks Division staff and may need to be modified according to staff comment.

v     Develop maintenance plan with Parks Division staff. If your project is approved, neighborhood residents must assume responsibility for ongoing maintenance duties. The City retains the right to order removal of inadequately maintained plantings and landscaping in the Right-of-Way. 

v     Sign maintenance release form. Persons who volunteer for planting/landscaping maintenance must sign a Parks Division release form that authorizes maintenance activities on public property. For sites along heavily-traveled roadways, volunteers may need to obtain private insurance coverage prior to approval from the Parks Division.

v     Raise funds from neighborhood residents and businesses. Approved planting and landscaping projects must be funded by the neighborhood associations and/or citizens who propose them. Parks Division staff can provide preliminary cost estimates to help your fundraising efforts.

Contact:

Laura Prindle, Outreach Coordinator

Parks Division

City County Building, Rm. 104

210 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-5949 Fax: 267-1162

e-mail: lprindle@cityofmadison.com 

Plantings and Landscaping on the Street Terrace

The street terrace is the space that lies between the sidewalk and the curb. Some street terrace improvements require City approval and/or permit, including tree planting and maintenance, concrete or brick paving, and placement of bricks or retaining walls. In many other cases, City approval is not required for citizens to initiate street terrace planting and landscaping improvements, but specific public safety and maintenance requirements must be met on an ongoing basis. Several items are prohibited on the street terrace (including ropes, chains, and vertical posts).

How To Get Started:

v     Prepare a preliminary planting plan. Before beginning any planting or landscaping work on the street terrace, sketch a planting plan to make sure that your plan meets City requirements. Your plan does not require approval unless it incorporates brick, flagstone, concrete, or trees (see “Trees on the Street Terrace”). However, the following public safety requirements must be met:

For plantings:

·        plantings must be placed at least 24 inches from the back of the curb and at least six inches from the sidewalk edge. 

·        plant height may be no more than 24 inches above the top of the adjacent curb and must be trimmed so as not to overhang the sidewalk.

·        plantings must be placed at least six feet from fire hydrants and trimmed to maintain a four foot radius around fire hydrants.

For materials:

·        materials must be stable so as not to break or detach due to running water or contact with pedestrians or vehicles.

·        string, ropes, chains, stakes, vertical posts, or items with sharp edges or protrusions are prohibited on the street terrace.

·        materials placed on the terrace may not obstruct vehicular or pedestrian vision or access.

v     Obtain a Street/Terrace Permit when required. The following street terrace improvements require a Street/Terrace Permit from the Engineering Division: driveways, driveway aprons, concrete or brick paving, stairways, and placement of stones or retaining walls. For information, contact the Engineering Division at 266-4751. 

v     Design your planting plan to minimize impact on street trees. Tree root systems can potentially be damaged by digging or placement of materials adjacent to street trees. Prior to implementing your planned street terrace improvement, contact the Forestry Section at 266-4816 for advice.

v     Inform your district Alderperson of your terrace project. Informing your district Alderperson of your terrace project is recommended.

v     Raise funds from neighborhood residents and businesses. Street terrace planting and landscaping improvements must be funded by the neighborhood associations or citizens who implement them.

v     Comply with City maintenance requirements. Street terrace planting and landscaping improvements must be maintained by the neighborhood associations or citizens who implement them (except street trees). The City retains the right to order the removal of inadequately maintained plantings, landscaping, or other privately placed improvements on the street terrace.

Contact:

Marla Rauls or Lori Kief

Building Inspection Unit

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4550 or 261-4236     Fax: 266-6377

e-mail: bldginspect@cityofmadison.com 

 

Tom Herbst, Engineering Division

City-County Building, Rm. 115

210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4751 Fax: 264-9275

e-mail: therbst@cityofmadison.com 

Trees on the Street Terrace

Trees on the street terrace (the space between the sidewalk and the curb) can significantly enhance neighborhoods by creating beautiful street landscapes and by providing summertime shade. With the potential to grow more beautiful over time, street trees are among the most valued neighborhood amenities in the City of Madison. By City ordinance, tree planting and maintenance on the street terrace must be performed by the Forestry Section or by a citizen or company with a Street Tree Work Permit.

How To Get Started:

v     Identify potential street tree site(s). Identify potential street tree sites while keeping in mind the following site criteria used by the Forestry Section:

·        trees cannot be planted where they would impede the vision of pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorists approaching intersections; obstruct the view of traffic control signs; or conflict with underground utilities or overhead wires.

·        trees cannot be planted in the immediate vicinity of gas and water shutoffs, driveways, fire hydrants, street lights, or private property lines, the exact distance depending on specific site characteristics.

v     Contact abutting property owners. When considering potential street tree planting sites, it is important to contact abutting property owners to determine whether they support tree planting(s).

v     Contact the Forestry Section to indicate proposed site(s). Based on your proposed site(s), Forestry staff will identify: 1) the appropriate tree species, 2) a planting schedule, and 3) the associated cost, if any. Forestry staff consider the following criteria:

·        trees are often grouped by variety within blocks.

·        the minimum tree planting distance from street lights is determined by the mature height and spread of the particular tree variety.

·        the mature height and spread of nearby private property plantings is taken into account when determining whether a given tree variety and site is appropriate.

·        certain tree varieties cannot be planted due to maintenance problems, susceptibility to disease, utility obstructions, and/or impediments to traffic and pedestrian safety.

·        physical characteristics of the site such as soil types, existing terrace plantings, and terrace width partly determine site-appropriate tree varieties.

v     Inform your district Alderperson of the tree planting. Informing your district Alderperson of the tree planting is recommended.

v     Notify neighborhood residents about street tree plantings. Although the Forestry Section notifies abutting property owners prior to street tree plantings, it is often prudent for neighborhood associations to notify residents as well – through neighborhood publications, fliers, or door-to-door.

v     Raise funds from neighborhood residents and businesses. Initial tree plantings on the street terrace must be funded by the neighborhood associations or citizens who propose them. Replacement trees are City-funded except for instances (such as vandalism or traffic accidents) where replacement costs can be charged to identifiable persons responsible for tree damage.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Q:  Can the Forestry Section provide preliminary cost estimates for tree purchase and installation?

A:  Yes. Depending on tree variety, tree purchase and installation costs generally range from $70 to $90. Since replacement trees (if necessary) are City-funded, initial street tree costs represent a “guaranteed investment.”

Q:  What should citizens and neighborhood associations do when a street tree needs maintenance work?

A:  The Forestry Section performs all tree maintenance activities unless a Street Tree Work Permit is granted to a citizen or company to perform approved tree maintenance tasks. Contact the Forestry Section to report street tree maintenance needs.

Contact:

Forestry Specialist, Forestry Section

1402 Wingra Creek Parkway

Madison, WI 53715

Phone: 266-4816 Fax: 267-8696

Benches, Bike Racks, and Kiosks

“Street furniture” such as benches, bike racks, and kiosks can make public spaces in your neighborhood look and feel more friendly to pedestrians, residents, and visitors. Benches provide places for residents to sit together, talk, and enjoy public gathering places. Kiosks provide space for posting fliers, meeting announcements, and other community information. Bike racks provide convenience and access for bicyclists.

Placement of street furniture in public Right-of-Way sites – including sidewalks and the street terrace (the space between the curb and the sidewalk) – requires an Encroachment Agreement approved by the Privilege in Streets Committee. Because each of Madison’s streets is unique, all street furniture proposals are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Criteria include sidewalk and street terrace width, planned future uses of the public Right-of-Way, maintenance needs, potential visibility obstruction, and distance from traffic controls, utilities infrastructure, and fire hydrants. Street furniture cannot conflict in any way with public safety, pedestrian access, or the general public interest. 

How to Get Started:

v     Contact the Real Estate Section. Before preparing a formal proposal, contact the Real Estate Section to discuss the feasibility of your proposed street furniture and site. Be prepared to provide specific information about your street furniture proposal, including dimensions, location in relation to intersections, fire hydrants, signs, and other items in the Right-of-Way, and the width of the proposed sidewalk/street terrace site. If your proposal seems feasible, Real Estate staff will explain how to prepare an Application for Privilege in Streets.

v     Submit Application for Privilege in Streets to the Real Estate Section. Submit an Application for Privilege in Streets to the Real Estate Section along with appropriate drawings of the proposed street furniture and site. A non-returnable $250 application fee must accompany the application.

v     Inform your district Alderperson of your application. Informing your district Alderperson of your application is recommended.

v     Monitor Privilege in Streets review process. The Privilege in Streets Committee will review your application and recommend either approval, conditional approval, or denial. Ask Real Estate staff to explain the Privilege in Streets review process.

v     Sign Encroachment Agreement. If the application is approved by the Privilege in Streets Committee, the applicant must sign a legally binding Encroachment Agreement before implementation can proceed. While Encroachment Agreements vary on a case-by-case basis, standard provisions include: 1) the applicant is responsible for all maintenance of the street furniture; and 2) the City can order removal of street furniture (given 10 days written notice) if maintenance is inadequate or if the street furniture conflicts with a public use of the Right-of-Way. The annual street encroachment fee is calculated as a percentage of the value of the land encumbered by the street furniture, with a minimum annual fee of $100.

v     Raise funds from neighborhood residents and businesses. Street furniture projects must be funded by the applicant.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Q:  What is the public Right-of-Way?

A:  The public Right-of-Way (ROW) includes all public streets, public sidewalks, and areas reserved for future streets, sidewalks, and public infrastructure. In many cases, the ROW also includes greenspace lying parallel to public streets and sidewalks. All land within the ROW, as well as the subsurface below and air space above it, is publicly owned and reserved for uses that do not conflict in any way with public safety or the public interest. The Privilege in Streets Committee reviews all proposed street encroachments.

Contact:

Jerry Lund, Real Estate Section

Municipal Building, Rm. 332

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 267-8718 Fax: 261-6126

e-mail: jlund@cityofmadison.com

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