Commission signs off on digital sign

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017

LaGRANGE – The board of commissioners approved a conditional use permit for KK&L Real Estate owner Ken Reagan to place an LED sign to be located on Hamilton Road near the entrance of Bryant Lake subdivision at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners reviewed the variance for the third time on Tuesday morning following three contentious meetings with upwards of a dozen people speaking out for and against on the proposed signage at the second meeting. A number of residents also spoke out for and against the sign at the other meetings.

Tuesday’s meeting saw more than an hour of discussion on the sign alone, in addition to other agenda items.

The sign had previously been approved by the board of zoning appeals to be built within 1,000 feet of a structure, but the same board voted against the sign’s placement on that property. A county staff recommendation was to deny the variance; however, the board of commissioners is not tied to zoning board and staff recommendations, and the commissioners ultimately voted in favor of the variance for the sign, with a few conditions.

Under the conditions set by the commission, the sign would only be allowed to be 10 by 20 feet wide, with a total height be 25 feet. The variance also dictates where on the property the sign could be placed and requires minimal tree removal. Further, the sign will be required to have an illumination of 0.3 foot candles. Foot candles is the measurement of light output – or illuminance – and is generally regulated on a local level. 0.3 foot candles above ambient light is a standard level of light in regulations. The light restriction was made in response to local concerns regarding safety around an overly bright sign, though the sign’s manufacture argued against that concern.

“All the studies (that have been done on digital billboards) have come back with the same conclusion: there is no correlation between increased accidents or traffic incidents based on digital billboards,” said Mark Steinkamp, who is over regional sales for Daktronics, Inc., the company that manufactures the type of billboard the just received a variance from the county.

Several members of the community spoke in favor of the sign on the basis of its advertising value and a belief in property owner rights, with an emphasis on small business owners.

“We (at the Wild Animal Safari) have some desire to advertise there, and obviously, it is in our best interest to attract as much business as possible for our location, which is a rural location,” said Rick McCormic, of the Wild Animal Safari. “… That is the correct exit to promote the best traffic flow in that area – right down (U.S.) 27, right to our location, so we find that a very desirable area to advertise.”

Those living next to the sign had less favorable opinions on the variance, however.

“He’s got to offset that sign by 10 feet or 15 feet – depending on if you call it a pole sign or a billboard – (and) that moves that sign right into the front of my house,” said Katherine Bowden, who owns the property immediately next to where the sign is set to be located. “We’re talking 75 (to) 80 feet distance between the two. … This house will be right under that sign. How are you going to keep the light out of that sign out of that property?”

The LED portion of the sign will be facing away from Bowden’s property and the light levels should be regulated by both local and state agencies, but residents of Bryant Lake subdivision and other parties interested in residential growth, likewise felt concern for the placement of a sign at that location as well as the light from the sign.

“I do not think that that it is in the best interest of the community – not only Bryant Lake, but LaGrange as a whole,” said Kendell Butler, a local realtor. “… A billboard will be a detraction – potentially – from having neighborhood commercial in this area and getting something very nice and high-end in this area.”

The commissioners unanimously approved the LED billboard, with a comment from Commissioner Richard English that he was not convinced that there was ample proof that the sign could have a detrimental effect on local home owners.

The sign will still need to be approved through the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles before it can be put up. According to Senior Building Official Jay Anderson, GDOT will consider current land use in the area around the sign in their approval or denial of the application, and the agency will be able to request lighting adjustments of the owner if such adjustments are proven necessary for safety reasons.

The board of commissioners also approved the budgeted purchase of a Ford F-250 truck for the fire department at the same meeting.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners plans to meet again on Feb. 21 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Ave.

Reach Alicia B. Hill alicia.hill@lagrangenewscom or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.