Creating regulations for new electronic sign technology has been a long and time-consuming process for the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission and its staff.
The commission placed a moratorium on electronic sign applications in February, and members have discussed the issue several times since. The moratorium has been extended once, and while it is set to end Aug. 8, it may be extended again as more details are worked out, officials said.
The zoning commission met in a Wednesday work session to discuss a draft of the new regulations, using some suggestions and comments made during Monday’s commission meeting and comments gathered from phone calls and e-mails.
Sign technology allows electronic flashing signs, scrolling signs, animated signs and bright signs that quickly change colors and messages.
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The commission said the main reason for controlling electronic signs — not including billboards — is to prevent driver distractions when signs are too bright, are flashing or are located in inappropriate locations.
Many people are waiting for the moratorium to end, zoning director Jean Brown said. Some of that backlog has been created because the price of electronic signs has come down.
“It’s just like flat screen TVs. When they first came out, nobody could afford them,” said P&Z Executive Director Jim Thomas. “It’s the same thing with electronic signs. ... Now they are a lot more affordable.”
Some of the electronic sign issues discussed Thursday include:
n Not allowing off site advertising, which means signs cannot promote or advertise goods or services that are not located on the same property as the sign.
n Not allowing animation except for subtle or gradual changes, but the commission and staff have struggled with how to define “subtle” or “gradual.”
n Deciding where electronic signs would be allowed, which was described by Thomas as “the meat of the changes.” Several churches or other places of assembly want electronic signs, but some are located near residents who might be bothered by the signs at night. Attorney Hale Almand said he would research how the commission should handle signs for places of assembly.
n Installing signs so that no light or illumination is cast or directed into a residence.
n Allowing signs in non-residential and agricultural districts and with a conditional-use permit in some other districts.
n Deciding what percentage of a sign — from 25 percent to 50 percent — should be electronic. Some commissioners said perhaps the percentage should vary depending on the district.
n Orienting electronic signs inside a building toward people inside the building and not to people outside.
n Not allowing electronic signs as wall signs.
n Requiring electronic signs to have automatic dimmers so they are less bright during cloudy days or at night.
n Regulating electronic gas price signs since some gas stations are in residential areas.
Jack Rosson, owner of Rosson Sign Co., attended the work session Thursday and he arranged King to bring the sample sign.
“We want signs to be something that helps the community,” Rosson said. “It’s important that we get it right.”
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.