Sign rules run afoul of some - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sign rules run afoul of some businesses

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By Christian Jennings - bio | email

Albany, GA (WALB) - Albany Code Enforcement is cracking down on sign ordinance violators. They've confronted hundreds of businesses over the past several months, asking owners to take down signs and issuing citations that result in fines of up to $450.

Many Albany businesses owners say the city isn't being business friendly during tough economic times. WALB News 10's Christian Jennings is live in front one of the many business signs that's sparking controversy.

The Harvest Moon is a popular restaurant and bar. This ground sign is creating a problem. The city's sign ordinance passed in June 2008, says businesses can only have one ground sign.

Harvest Moon has two so Monday the owner was issued this citation, even though his sign says "We love Albany."

Now business owners are questioning whether city officials love Albany businesses?

Business owners call it free advertising. But according to the city's sign ordinance the eye-catcher may be illegal. The ordinance says businesses can only have one ground sign, but the sign causing Bo Henry a problem has been in the ground for more than 20 years.

"To stop businesses from trying to make a dollar makes no sense," he said.

 Code enforcement officers stopped by Pier 1 Imports too. "We were cited May 21st for too much of our windows covered," said Christina Copeland. The rule is window signs can only take up 10% of each window's space on windows facing the street. Pier 1's signs are too big.

"So signs that were facing the mall we now get no advertising for them."

Car dealerships were hit too. "We had streamers we had to take down, balloons, flags," Matt Broome at Lawson Auto sales said.

Broome says they need the attention grabbers, or else their business looks like an average parking lot. "I've seen a decline in our traffic since we had to do this. It looks dead around here."

Code Enforcement director Mike Tilson says his officers will continue going door to door. The ordinance was passed a year ago, and they're ready to enforce it. He says one of the biggest problems they face are signs in rights of way.

"The way to tell, look for telephone poles, water meters.  Last year, code enforcement was authorized four additional officers and inspectors."

Frustrating news for Bo Henry. "If we have that kind of budget, lets put them out watching neighborhoods for breakins-- taking care of real problems."

The owner of Harvest Moon told me a code enforcement called him last night and told him they are voiding his ticket for now.

Director Mike Tilson says some situations like this one are more complex, and they are going to handle issues like this one by meeting with the city attorney and planning department to determine if he is indeed in violation of the ordinance.

So far, 10 business owners have been cited and paid fines. Several more have been warned or ticketed recently.

Technically, each day is a separate violation, so just paying the fine and keeping illegal signs up can result in more citations.

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