LaGrange reconsiders window sign ordinance

Published 9:15 am Thursday, October 13, 2022

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The City of LaGrange is revisiting a portion of its sign ordinance on window signs after dozens of businesses around the city were determined to be out of compliance.

Currently, the city requires that signs on windows, typically window clings, cover only 20 percent of the window to allow visibility in and out of businesses.

The issue was brought up again some time ago when Visit LaGrange President Kathy Tilley requested to place vinyl window clings on an unoccupied building that the city owns to advertise LaGrange amenities. At the time, the city rejected the idea because of the 20-percent rule, not wanting to hold themselves to a different standard than local businesses.

After seeing countless businesses out of compliance, Mayor Jim Thornton asked if the 20-percent rule even makes sense anymore because it isn’t being enforced.

City Manager Meg Kelsey sent city staff around to check compliance on the issue and the results showed that most businesses are either ignoring the rule or unaware of it. City Planner Mark Kostial provided the council with photos of numerous businesses that had window clings that covered the majority of their windows or even all of them.

“Pick a gas station or a service station convenience store. They’re virtually all in violation, even a lot of our fast-food establishments,” Kostial said.

Thornton noted that he has frequently walked past the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper sign downtown, which clearly takes up more than 20 percent of the window.

“I’ve walked by it a thousand times and have no problem with it. It looks good,” Thornton said. “My reason for bringing this back up is not to say that I want to send [city staff] out to rip down the signs at Riverkeeper and retail stores, but to simply say does this 20-percent-limit rule really make any sense?”

“If we’re not enforcing it, and if it’s not bothering anybody, do we need to adjust it?” Thornton asked the council.

Kostial said he believes the original goal was to provide transparency into establishments but noted that the way the code is currently written, nothing prevents business owners from hanging curtains to block the view inside.

Council member Nathan Gaskins suggested asking the fire department and police department their thoughts on the matter before modifying or simply dropping the requirement.

Thornton explained that if the council wants to consider changing the rule, they would have to send it back to the Board of Planning and Zoning Appeals because it would be a zoning amendment. He suggested they could talk to the fire department, police, development authority and Visit LaGrange to come up with a recommendation. Kostial said he would present the issue to the planning commission on Oct. 17 along with a few other text cleanup amendments for the Unified Development Ordinance.