Sign ordinances under review across county

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

LaGRANGE – As new businesses pop up left and right, the rules that govern signage are beginning to show signs of age, forcing local governments to review those ordinances and create updates.

With a review of the city sign ordinance by the city of LaGrange already underway and a review within West Point expected to begin soon, the county is also beginning to review its own sign ordinance, Due to changes in federal regulations on signs, the county is considering a moratorium – or temporary hold – on new signage so that the ordinance can be revised to reflect recent changes to the approved legal language without putting the county at legal risk.

The moratorium would only last for 90 days, and would still allow owners of existing signage to “re-do an existing sign as long as it is not a digital multimedia message.” It would only put a 90 day hold on approvals for new construction signage.

One of the greatest concerns on the part of the commissioners when the moratorium was proposed was possible negative affects the wait could have on new businesses, which is why the moratorium is set up to make allowances for sign changes even as the sign ordinance is being reviewed.

“We need to look at it carefully and make sure we don’t put any stumbling blocks in the way (of new business),” said Commissioner Richard English.

Already approved signage would not have to wait on the hold, and according to Senior Building Official Jay Anderson, there are no new construction businesses that currently have construction plans approved that would need unapproved signage during the 90-day hold period, which eased some of the concerns among the commissioners.

“With things looking up and building permits going up and businesses looking at coming in (we need) a way to accommodate that if there is something that pops up during that moratorium because I think mostly we are looking at electrics and billboards and that sort of thing that are a challenge,” said County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews during the commission work session on Friday.

County employees expect it to take three to six months to fully review and update the sign ordinance to reflect changes in laws and technology since the ordinance was last re-written, but the moratorium will give them time to review some of the big parts of that without having new signs approved under possibly outdated standards.

“There are some pretty important court cases that have come from the United States Supreme Court dealing with signs,” said County Planner Tracie Hadaway at the commission work session on Friday. “They are free speech that all that (in the ordinance) has to operate within that framework.”

The county also plans to review temporary signage, digital signage, pedestrian hazards and how those are regulated in its review of the ordinance. County employees plan to look at other local sign ordinances for comparison during the re-write of the updated sign ordinance.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners plans to vote on the moratorium at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 21 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Ave.

The commissioners approved the ability of the Troup County Felony Adult Drug Court, the Accountability Court and the State Court DUI/Drug Court to apply for grants for state funding during that meeting.