A West Des Moines financial institution wants to put a sculpture of the letters B-A-N-K stacked on top of each other near the front door of its building at 270 S. 68th St.

The request has put city officials in a quandary.

"Does what they want to do constitute signage or is it a sculpture?" asked Lynn Twedt, West Des Moines’ director of development services, during a recent development and planning meeting.

Complicating the issue is that the name of the financial institution is Bank, she said.

Pat Mescher of ASI Signage in Des Moines argued the 9-foot-tall structure is a sculpture.

"It’s not like it’s an advertisement because it’s not viewable from the street," he said. "It’s more of an attraction for clients and customers when they walk in and see 'BANK' and think, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool.’"

Officials with the bank told city staff that the inspiration for the structure comes from a similar structure outside a library in Grinnell that had the letters L-I-B-R-A-R-Y stacked on top of each other.

Twedt said city staff are struggling with whether the structure is art or signage.

"In our eyes, the name of the business is ‘Bank.’ It says ‘BANK.’ To us it’s signage," she said. If the structure was more abstract featuring dollar signs or dollar bills or coins, the issue would be less complicated, she said.

Council member Renee Hardman agreed. "Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought [the council] would spend so much time on art versus sculpture," she said.

In this instance, Hardman said she agrees with staff that the proposed structure should be considered a sign rather than a sculpture because the institution’s name is also Bank.