Sign changes coming

LaGRANGE – As more and more new signs continue to pop up around town, the city council gathered to discuss how to make the sign ordinance easier to navigate at its work session on Tuesday.

The status of a “comprehensive rewrite” on the city’s sign ordinance was brought before the council, and while some aspects of the ordinance are still under consideration, the city is already looking at what kind of affect the proposed changes could have within the community, especially considering the increasing number or sign variances that the city has granted in recent years.

“The planning board was very interested in reaching out to the sign manufactures in town that are the ones who come through the permit (process) and are with the customers and happen to be familiar with the rules and regulations,” said City Planner Leigh Threadgill. “We really want to capture any of their feedback before bringing a final draft to you all (on the council).”

Those perspectives and experiences could provide that crucial local thought to the rewrite of the ordinance, which was drafted after reviewing the sign ordinances of eight other governments including West Point, Newnan, Rome and Troup County.

“The planning commission has spent a lot of time looking at best practices, and what do other cities do, and what have we learned over the last 20 years or so, and are there areas that need to be updated, etc.,” said Mayor Jim Thornton.

Updates to the ordinance will include updated height allowances on new pole signs and the incentive of businesses to put up monument signs over pole signs by allowing more square footage of sign space for monument style signs then would be allowed for pole signs. The city prefers the monument signs because of their appearance, and many industries already prefer monument signs.

“From an industrial standpoint, we are pretty out of whack with our neighbors on industrial sign height, and if you drive around LaGrange… I think you’ll find that most industry doesn’t have really tall signage,” said Threadgill. “They are not looking to bring a lot of customers… so they typically do a monument sign.”

The rewrite also hopes to address some questionable wording in the ordinance that could be interpreted as the city attempting to control content – which it would not be allowed to do under the first amendment – when the wording’s intent was to outline types of possible signage.

The rewrite would also update how the allowable square footage of sign space on wall signs is determined.

“The rules that we have on the book now, they are difficult to enforce,” said Threadgill. “We require 50 percent of the area of the wall minus any windows and doors – take all that our – per sign, but only up to 150 square feet and you are only allowed three wall signs. … So, let’s just make the math easy. I’ll take the length of the front of the building times the height of the front of the building and 10 percent of that is what you are going to get.”

According to Threadgill, the new regulation may even make it possible for some businesses to have larger signs despite the smaller percentage due to window space, and the change would also save the city time determining the allowable size. There would still be a maximum of 200 square foot for wall signs. The update would also allow for more than the three wall signs currently listed in the ordinance so long as they maintained the square foot requirements.

A rewrite will address what counts as temporary business signage and when and where temporary business signage can be allowed by designating that temporary signs be used exclusively for temporary events.

The city council and planning commission plan to give the revised ordinance more review before it is passed, but so far, the updates appear as if they would solve several reoccurring sign ordinance issues that have required variances. The council also plans to consider whether it would be best for the planning board to approve variances in the future since the variances have more to do with facts then politics.

The city council plans to meet again on Tuesday, March 14 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Ave.

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