Cartersville City Council discusses sign ordinance
by Matt Shinall
Aug 24, 2011 | 2578 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Following stakeholder meetings and departmental hearings, the Cartersville City Council discussed revisions to the city sign ordinance at a Monday work session.

The sign ordinance has remained relatively unchanged since 1996. Many regulations will remain the same while some changes will include those addressing advances in technology, "content neutrality," and increased consistency for commercial uses in designated areas.

Many of the issues presented by the Cartersville Planning and Development Department were complicated in nature affecting both businesses and residents leading council members to lean toward the possibility of meeting again for another work session on the matter after further work and research is done on the topics of concern voiced by the council.

The first issue brought to discussion by a council member was ongoing concerns with "sign flipping," a marketing campaign locally employing sign bearers near busy roadways and intersections displaying an ad for businesses. To attract the attention of passing motorists, the sign flippers routinely throw or twirl their sign in the air.

A complaint raised the issue last year of this activity creating a distraction for drivers as well as a liability if the sign were dropped or if the sign holder were struck by a car while on public property. The council's decision at that time was to allow sign flipping, for which a business application was properly applied for and granted, on private property only.

Current regulations say very little concerning the matter but do mention signs twirling or rotating. Proposed revisions will go into greater detail concerning the matter if not altered. Councilmen Kari Hodge and Lori Pruitt both spoke in defense of the "sign flipper" asking if there might be room for a compromise.

"For downtown businesses, it's good advertisement for us and I'm speaking not as a council member but as a business owner," Hodge said. "He really is talented at what he does."

Concerns arose primarily with liability on public property and would include stationary sign holders including those such as the "We buy gold" signs seen on U.S. 41.

Another issue which will garner a second look is weekend directional signs. Originally allowed for residential developments, weekend directional signs are currently not regulated by permit but can only be placed on roadsides over the weekend and must be removed by Monday morning. Today, there are very few residential developments utilizing the allowance. Instead it is used locally by commercial endeavors, weekend events and garage sales.

Problems, however, have arisen lately with pain management clinics taking advantage of the rule and not cleaning up their signs. According to code enforcement, the vast majority of weekend directional signs are out of town pain management clinics and attempts to reach the number provided are often unsuccessful.

One of the last matters of discussion was the placement of billboards on and along Interstate 75 within city limits. Current ordinance does not allow for billboards to be placed within sight of I-75 and no changes have been proposed although they are a common site throughout the city. Planning and Development Director Randy Manninno called Cartersville "opposite" from many communities which allow billboards along major interstates but not in town.

"I don't understand why we'll allow them on Tennessee Street, we'll allow them on 41, but on a major highway to bring people off the highway and get them into our community, we've said 'that's not the thing we want to do,'" Hodge said. "Don't you think, if we had information on 75 about the Booth, about Tellus about anything else that's pertinent to the area that it would not draw people off [I-75]?"

Councilman Diane Tate opposed the allowance of billboards along the interstate to retain a cleaner image.

At the advice of legal counsel for fairer practices in alignment with constitutionality and freedom of speech, Cartersville Planning and Development made efforts in their revisions to all sections of the sign ordinance moving toward "content neutrality." Proposed regulations for this matter and others were devised from attorney input, staff comments, national studies and existing ordinances at other cities.

Regulations will steer clear of what signs may or may not say and dictate specifically what sizes and types of signs may be used in commercial and residential areas. Technology advances will be addressed by restricting digital, flashing or animated signs to certain zoning districts with size conditions and limiting electronic billboards to those conforming to Georgia Department of Transportation permitting standards. GDOT requires signs to include no more than six displays per minute and change no more than once every 10 seconds containing only static messages with no flashing animation.

For more information visit the Planning and Development Department online by following the links from www.cityofcartersville.org or call 770-387-5614.