Feather signs are multiplying like dandelions in spring.
You can see them sprouting along O Street, fluttering in the wind. They've sprung up on the edges of town, calling attention to apartment complexes.
By the looks of many major streets, you'd never know that the so-called feather signs are illegal, banned by city ordinances intending to keep Lincoln tidy, free of eye clutter and driving distractions.
But the free-flying days of feather signs seemingly are almost over. The city has decided to begin enforcing its no-feather flag rule in earnest.
A letter from Fred Hoke, the city's Development Services Center director, will go out soon to half a dozen of the major business associations explaining city sign law and notifying them that city building inspectors will begin keeping a list and calling on businesses in violation.
Last year, the city tried to keep a lid on feather signs by notifying the sign companies licensed by the city that feather signs are illegal and asking the local companies to stop selling the signs, Hoke said.
But businesses began buying the signs online when they couldn't get them locally, Hoke said. So the signs have multiplied as businesses not only flouted the sign law but avoided paying local sales taxes.
It's time to enforce the city's code or change it, Hoke said.
There is a $200-per-day fine for disobeying the city sign ordinance, but Mike Petersen, who handles sign permits for the city, expects most businesses will take down the temporary signs when they find out they are in violation of the law.
City building inspectors will be talking with commercial property owners and managers about their feather signs, informing them of the illegal nature of the signs and requesting they remove them, Hoke says in the letter to business associations.
"It is our intention over the next three to four weeks to visit enough sites where these signs are being displayed to get the word out that these signs are not permitted," he said.
Many other temporary "signs" also are illegal: the guy in a chicken suit riding a unicycle in front of a restaurant, people waving placards encouraging drivers to use a specific business, and garage sale signs stuck in the ground at street corners all are prohibited under city ordinances.
But the building inspection department will be focusing on feather signs because they are growing the fastest and are the most noticeable of the illegal, temporary signs, according to city staff.
People usually are very cooperative once they know a sign is illegal, Petersen said. But currently, businesses see others using feather flags and don't know they aren't legal, he said.