Sign ordinance taking shape

Published 10:50 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2017

After months of review, county staff are beginning to see the updated sign ordinance take shape.

Both the City of LaGrange and Troup County have been working to bring their sign ordinances in line with state rulings for months in an effort to make them legal, enforceable and up to date with modern technology. On Tuesday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners offered its comments on the updated county ordinance which is now nearing completion and focused much of its attention on how the ordinance will affect temporary signage.

“We reached a compromise that we think is workable to allow temporary signage for 20 calendar days without a permit, but for anything over 20 days it would be with a permit,” County Planner Tracie Hadaway. “We would allow it for 30 days once a quarter.”

The permit would give the county the ability to enforce the sign ordinance, and discourage residents from keeping signs that are designed to be temporary up for months at a time. The updated ordinance will also attempt to make new signage more consistent between the cities and the county.

“The main changes between the ordinance that we’ve got now and the one that we are revising (are to) the free standing poles located in the commercial industrial zoning districts are reduced from 35 foot to 25 foot —­ 35 is what is in the existing zoning ordinance — and the sides would be decreased from 200 square feet to 100 square feet,” Hadaway said. “This change is more consistent with the municipalities and other jurisdictions, although Troup County will still be on the higher side for height.”

Other updates to the sign ordinance include decreasing how many signs are allowed to cover store windows from 100 percent to 20 percent, billboards will be allowed on interstate 85, digital multiple message boards will not be allowed on Troup County’s scenic roads — which are currently designated as Salem Road, Dennis Smith Road and Salem-Chipley Road — and portable signs will only be allowed on a temporary basis with a permit.

The commissioners have reviewed the ordinance, and its updates, and some expressed concern on the ease of citizens hoping obtain permission to put up temporary signs.

“Is that something that can be done online?” Commissioner Lewis Davis asked. “Or is that something that they will physically need to come into the zoning office for?”

According to Senior Building Official Jay Anderson, the forms should be available online, but citizens would still need to come into the office to turn them in at this point. Signs for weekend events like yard sales would not require a permit, but would only be allowed on Fridays through Tuesday mornings.

Some concern was also expressed over the ordinance’s regulations concerning flags.

“Whatever we can do or need to do, we do not need to get into a discussion about if people can fly a large American flag,” County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said. “I’ve seen too many communities and homeowner’s associations get in fights about that, and I think we don’t want to go there.”

The updated ordinance purposefully avoids naming what can and cannot be displayed on signs due to the ruling of a recent lawsuit where it was found that content based regulations which specifically list sign categories as yard sale signs and realtor signs instead of weekend signs and event signs could easily run afoul of first amendment rights. The county staff has been hesitant to make exceptions in the ordinance, even for the American flag.

Staff did however agree to take a closer look at how the ordinance could affect county citizens display the American flag.

Hadaway also noted that staff hoped to put together a reference guide on signage regulations for local business owners who may have questions regarding the updated signage policy.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners voted to extend the moratorium on signage for another 30 days in order to make it possible to have a final public hearing before the updated sign ordinance is passed.

The vote will be held on July 18 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Ave. which will be the next meeting with an accompanying work session when all the commissioners will be able to attend.