Car dealers fuming over code enforcement crackdown - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Car dealers fuming over code enforcement crackdown

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Some Albany used car dealership owners are fired up over a city ordinance they say will cost them money.

The city is aggressively cracking down on sign ordinance violations. Code enforcement officers have been giving warnings but some business owners who are taking a stand will have to go to court.

Gary Willis says eye-catching gimmicks are a long-time staple of the car biz. "Car lots are streamers. Car lots are flags. Car lots are balloons," said Willis.

Because of those colorful elements at his Mr. Klean Kars lot, Willis got a bright yellow citation. "The ticket is not really the big deal. It's the principal of the thing," said Willis.

Code enforcement officers have been warning him for three weeks to take them down. "It's just anti-business. That's the bottom line," said Willis. According to the city's updated sign ordinance adopted last year, they're in violation.

"We're trying to survive, trying to do whatever we can do to make it from day to day," said Willis.

"If I can't advertise, the profitability of my lot is going to decline to the point that I can't make a living. And I certainly won't be able to pay my employees," said Lawson Auto Sales Owner Jeff Lawson.

Car dealers say without the attention grabbers, business will suffer. Code enforcers say they'll have to abide by the rules. "The sign ordinance basically says anything moving or that has shape and sends a message, is a sign," said Albany Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson.

Officers have been cracking down since December. They're moving throughout the city and enforcing the rules business by business. "This is going to be a slow painstaking process, very methodical," said Tilson.

Tilson says the process is to ensure safety. Drivers can be distracted by too much signage and the city also wants to get rid of what they call sign blight. "Too many signs make the place look bad," said Tilson.

"All we're asking for is some compassion, which they aren't giving," said Willis.

Since the city isn't giving in, Willis says everything may just stay up. "I don't know whether I'm going to take them down or not. Right now, no!," said Willis. He says they can come write him another citation tomorrow.

"I'm not going to take them down. We're going to fight it," said Willis.

Tilson says many business owners are upset but most have complied when warned. Four were taken to court last month. Violators can pay as much as $500 in fines.  

To view the full sign ordinance, visit http://www.municode.com/resources/gateway.asp?pid=10283&sid=10.  It's Article III under Chapter 3, Advertising.

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