Fort Oglethorpe may tweak sign ordinance

Fort Oglethorpe may tweak sign ordinance

March 14th, 2009 by Beverly Carroll in Georgia

A gusty March wind swirled through Fort Oglethorpe Thursday, stirring almost everything, including the plastic banners that fly at many area businesses.

Whether the flapping signs are eye-catching or more eyesore depends upon the beholder. But they've caught the eye of city inspectors recently, who are enforcing a sign ordinance many of those banner violate.

"Our city looks a whole lot cleaner than it did two or three weeks ago," Councilman Charles Sharrock said. "I had people tell me some stores had so much clutter, they looked like gambling casinos."

Mr. Sharrock prompted the inspections and enforcement of a time limit rule on use of the temporary signs. He said the city looks "100 percent better."

Steve Freeman, kitchen manager of O'Charley's restaurant, said the banner on the building's west side gets noticed and has "definitely grown our business."

The sign ordinance, though, states businesses must have a permit to hang the banners for up to six weeks. Zoning administrator Mark Lindsay said the city cited about 30 businesses in February for sign violations.

The issue peaked when QuickMart owner Jay Patel complained at a council meeting he'd been singled out to remove his banners, costing him hundreds of dollars a day in business. He brought photos of other businesses still using the banner signs.

City Manager Ron Goulart said he thought most of those businesses had permits, which allow the banners for six weeks or for three two-week periods in one year.

Mr. Patel said most have been up for more than six weeks. "I want to know what kind of permit they have," he said.

Mr. Goulart said is considering amending the ordinance to extend the time temporary signs may be displayed.

He instituted a requirement applicants for new or renewed business licenses sign a statement that they understand the sign ordinance. Meanwhile, he's researching other cities' sign ordinances and developing recommendations for a sign ordinance review committee.

"The issue is trying to craft an ordinance that addresses the clutter factor while being business-friendly," Mr. Goulart said.