No one wants Macon to look like Times Square or Las Vegas. That’s one thing everyone agreed on during a public meeting about proposed electronic sign regulations.
The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission held an informational meeting Monday night to gather input from the community as the commission works to update its sign regulations. About 20 people attended the meeting at Macon City Hall.
“A number of communities are grappling with these (electronic sign) issues right now,” said O. Hale Almand, the commission’s attorney.
Almand said some of the issues facing Macon/Bibb County and other communities include:
— The illumination of signs, how bright they are and whether strobe lights, flashing lights or animation should be allowed.
— Whether to allow off-site advertising. For example, a sign at a car dealer that advertises a law firm.
— The density of signs is another concern, such as numerous signs, one after the other, along a roadway.
Almand reminded the commission and attendees that the commission has a great deal of leeway in regulating business signs.
Some of the people who spoke at the meeting talked about electronic signs already in place.
“I realize that nothing can be done about the monstrosity that has been erected across from our office ... the huge digital sign in front of the (WPGA) TV station,” said Dr. Frank Kelly with the Forsyth Street Orthopaedic, Rehabilitation & Surgery Centers. “I understand when that sign was approved it was within the regulations. ... However, I would like to express my displeasure and disappointment that our city would allow such a sign to go up. ... I appeal to the common sense of this commission to please let’s try to prevent such an obtrusive, dangerous (sign) in the future.”
Lindsay “Doc” Holliday, a Macon dentist, said he would like to see the brightness of signs regulated and that signs should “not be brighter than white.” Holliday said also that sign messages should change only once a day and that only on-site advertising signs should be allowed. Existing signs should not be grandfathered into the new regulations, he said.
“The Genie was let out of the bottle with the Grand Opera (House) theater,” said Tim Thornton, owner of Thornton Realty Co. “I can’t believe that that was allowed in the downtown historic district. ... But my hope will be that you won’t have a knee jerk reaction and just say ‘the heck will all of them.’ ”
Jack Rosson with Rosson Sign Co., said he didn’t want to create signs that were too bright or ones that pulsate.
“We don’t have any desire for that,” Rosson said. “We want it bright enough to be seen but we don’t want anyone to run in the ditch.”
Teri McCook, who lives in the Wexford subdivision and has objected at several past zoning meetings about the Value Place hotel sign off Bowman Road, attended Monday’s meeting.
“It’s so intrusive that I have to wear eye protection to sleep at night,” McCook said.
She implored the commission, as they consider what kind of signs should be allowed, to ask themselves what kind of sign would they want if it was “in your backyard or across from your office.”
The owners of Value Place filed suit earlier this month in Bibb County Superior Court after the commission ruled the motel was in violation of its existing sign ordinance. The commission has not yet responded to the suit.
“Not all signs are created equal,” said Attorney Wayne Crowley, who represents the Value Place owner. He asked the commission not to use that situation as a template.
Signs allowed on the interstate are not appropriate on Cherry Street, Crowley said.
“Signs serve legitimate purposes,” and they help visitors looking for attractions and help consumers looking for the best gas prices, he said.
The current electronic sign moratorium is in place until Aug. 8, and the commission staff expects to have a draft of the new regulations ready in July for the commission to review.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.