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Oakwood wants control over banners
Law to regulate large signs is set for Feb. 9 hearing
An assortment of banners and signs are displayed at the entrance to Oakwood Station, a shopping center off Mundy Mill Road. Oakwood is looking to revamp its sign ordinance to control an overabundance of banner signs. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Banners make up a big chunk of Jay Kelly’s sign-making business, but he’d like to see that form of sign put under control.

"I think it’s a good idea to improve the aesthetics of the roadway and also the quality," said Kelly, whose family owns Signs by Tomorrow in Oakwood and has lived in the area for more than 30 years.

"I’d love to see some consistency in the quality of the banners. And when you see a banner in place of a permanent building sign, it does not really portray a good image for the (surrounding) businesses."

Oakwood City Council is looking at refining its sign ordinance, taking special aim at banners, which officials have said have sprung up all around the city.

"Mundy Mill Road looks like the entrance to a circus town," Councilman Montie Robinson said at the Jan. 12 meeting.

Across town, banners are displayed primarily at businesses, strung up across front entrances or between stakes in front yards. They advertise everything from "Now open" to sales taking place inside the store.

A major problem has been that the signs have become practically permanent — a "Now Open" sign, for example, displayed at a business for more than a year.

"If you look at our existing ordinance, banners are defined in there, but it’s a little unclear about (the meaning of temporary)," City Planner Larry Sparks said. "There wasn’t any time frame on it."

Council voted Jan. 12 to give its first OK to an ordinance that would require residents to register banners with the city at no charge, specifying when they intend to put up a banner and take it down.

The ordinance approved at that meeting also set guidelines on the size of banners — up to 75 square feet — and how many times per year applicants could display them and for how long each time.

At that meeting, council members talked about possible changes to the law, including frequency of displaying banners, to allow for businesses to advertise special sales throughout the year.

Sparks said that City Attorney Donnie Hunt is developing a revised version of the ordinance, taking in council concerns.

Hunt is set to present it at the council’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting Feb. 9, which begins at 7 p.m.

A public hearing on the matter also has been set for that meeting, and the council could give its final OK.

"As soon as the amendment is adopted, we will notify all businesses of the changes," Sparks said.

Only City Councilman Gary Anderson has opposed the measure, saying he was concerned about imposing any requirements on businesses that might cause economic hardship.

"We’re going to increase the costs of advertising because they’re going to have to put up real signs instead of banners," he said. "I don’t think right now is the time to increase the cost to anybody."

Kelly, whose business — as a routine practice — creates a banner for customers while preparing a lighted sign or architectural lettering, said he is not concerned about the law stripping away his business.

"This would not affect us at all," he said.

"We do sign permitting throughout North Georgia," Kelly added. Oakwood’s consideration of sign law changes "is not a unique (situation) at all."

Jefferson’s City Council also is taking a look at its sign ordinances, but not as pertains to banners. The town is considering tightening regulations on electronic signs, but has put off a vote until February.