The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission passed new electronic sign regulations Monday, one day before a eight-month moratorium on the signs was set to expire.
The commission took on the task of writing the new regulations to keep up with advances in electronic graphic sign technology. Most of the changes are aimed at limiting distractions to drivers.
The new rules also succeed in preserving “the values and aesthetics of the community,” commission Vice Chairwoman Sarah Gerwig-Moore said.
The regulations prohibit electronic graphic signs in all historic districts, special commercial districts and central business districts. They also prohibit locating signs within 500 feet of residential structures and regulate sign features such as brightness and animation.
Gerwig-Moore noted the rules were drawn “after a lot of hard work” that included public hearings, field trips, seminars and consultation with zoning staff and lawyers.
Now comes more hard work — enforcing the new regulations. The regulations not only apply to new sign applications but some existing signs, as well. Signs with permits are OK, even if they do not meet some of the rules.
“The signs that are out there and are doing something the new regulations don’t allow, they’re grandfathered,” Jim Thomas, the commission’s executive director, said after Monday’s meeting. “They’re called ‘legal non-conforming uses,’ provided they have permits. There may be some out there that don’t have permits, and they will not be grandfathered in.”
Jack Rosson of Rosson Sign Co., who had spoken at public hearings against some of the new sign regulations, asked after the meeting if the new rules allowed applicants to apply for variances.
“Nothing’s changed as far as getting a variance, if you’ve got a situation and need a variance and it’s appropriate,” said Thomas.
For example, Thomas said, a sign in a heavily wooded area might not be subject to the 500-feet rule.
Rosson also asked about enforcement of the new regulations.
“Now that you’ve got all the rules, is somebody going to run out and tell all these people to stop using it the way they are? Is somebody going to write them a citation? ... Are they going to take them to court? Are they going to sue them?”
Thomas assured Rosson that violators would be cited.
The regulations do not apply to billboards. If so, they might have applied to one on Monday’s agenda.
The commission approved a conditional use to allow a “multiple message” billboard at 1550 Bass Road for North Macon LLC.
In June, zoning staff issued a zoning compliance for the 40-foot high billboard, which will face Interstate 75 and be readable from Bass Road.
That compliance, however, stipulated that the billboard would not be multiple messaging.
Chairman Damon King and members Arthur Hubbard and Jacqueline Hightower voted to approve a new permit for the sign. Gerwig-Moore voted against it.
“There was a stipulation that a message board would not be used,” she said.
Other items on the agenda were:
Items deferred from Sept. 13 meeting:
n 3776 Vineville Ave.: Conditional use to allow a beauty salon in an existing building, R-2 District (R-3 pending). Chad Kight, applicant. Approved.
n 2740 Montpelier Ave.: Conditional use to allow a building addition with variance in side yard setback requirements, C-2 District. Paul R. Kelley; Bentley & Sons, applicant. Approved.
Items deferred from prior meetings:
n 3910 and 3914 Broadway: Variance in setback requirements to allow a fence, M-1 District. Benny Crooms; Crooms Quality Cars. Approved.
n 1300, 1310 and 1316 Dent St.: Proposal to rezone from R-1, Single-Family Residential District to C-1, Neighborhood Commercial District. The purpose of this rezoning is to allow a convenience store with gasoline sales. Applied Technology Consultants, applicant. Approved.
n 5097 Harmon Drive: Conditional use to allow a manufactured home, A-Agricultural District. Michelle J. Hallman; Clayton Homes, applicant. Approved.
n 1444 Griffin Road: Conditional use to allow a manufactured home on a proposed flag lot, A-Agricultural District. Vicki King, applicant. Approved.
n 2311 Pio Nono Ave.: Conditional use to allow a convenience store with gasoline sales, C-1 District & R-1 District (C-1 Pending). Applied Technology Consultants, applicant. Approved.
n 2916 Jeffersonville Road: Conditional use to allow retail sales in an existing building, M-1 District. Sukhwant Singh, applicant. Approved.
n 5009 Harrison Road: Conditional use to allow an amusement facility in an existing building (game room; pool hall), C-4 District. Christopher Lee Kenworthy, applicant. Approved.
n 4379 Interstate Drive: Conditional use to allow automotive restoration, PDI District. Mike Scarbrough, applicant. Approved.
Certificate of appropriateness:
n 745 Pine St.: Certificate of appropriateness to allow design and material approval of a canopy with signage, CBD-1 District. Phillip Braun; D.C. Ecker Construction, applicant. Approved.
n 2437 Vineville Ave.: Certificate of appropriateness to allow design approval of roofing material, HR-3 District. Steven Ard; Ard & Associates Inc., applicant. Approved.
n 598 Third St.: Certificate of appropriateness to allow design approval of exterior modifications, CBD-1 District. Bruce Johnson; Commercial Furnishings, applicant. Approved.
n 104 Weatherby Drive: Variance in location requirements to allow an accessory building between the main dwelling and the public right-of-way, A- Agricultural District. William Larson Kortes, applicant. Withdrawn.
n 6045 Rivoli Drive and 5838 Rivoli Drive: Variance in setback requirements to allow an existing barn, A-Agricultural District. Paul Smaha; Ted Waddle Jr., applicant. Withdrawn.
n 720 Forest Ridge Drive West: Variance in distance requirements to allow an accessory building, R-1AAA District. Luann Vevea, applicant. Approved.
n 5233 Riverside Drive: Variance in height requirements and area requirements to allow a freestanding sign, R-3 District. Scott Bombard; Rosson Sign Co., applicant. Approved.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.