PERRY -- Enforcement of the city’s sign law is raising eyebrows and consternation among businessmen and churches.
“The sign law’s gotten more and more strict as time goes on. They had a banner (sign) law for a few years, and they would just give you a warning about it,” said Marty Myers, who owns Perry businesses including a golf course.
Myers said the city is now picking up more signs, including those on the side of the road.
“When they started doing it to churches, that doesn’t sit well with the community,” Myers said. “And they do it with businesses, too.”
City Manager Lee Gilmour said the city isn’t doing more enforcement of its sign ordinance than it had been, and offenders are all treated the same way, he said.
Gilmour said last month the Perry City Council put more formality behind a longstanding prohibition against signs in the right of way, a government-owned strip of land along roadsides. Signs along Perry rights of way have been banned for at least 10 years, Gilmour said.
Such prohibitions are common from local governments, and the state prohibits signs along state highways.
But some people in Perry say the sign ordinance and its enforcement make it harder for organizations to thrive. Jordan Kersey, senior pastor at Church in the Park, said he and his wife began planning their new church in July and didn’t open until Jan. 25. Perry’s sign ordinance wasn’t on their radar, and the city picked up the church signs in or near the right of way, Kersey said. The signs, similar to most political signs, invited people to worship in the church at Forest Hill Park or advertised the service times of 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Kersey said he’d like some more flexibility, but “not necessarily because we’re a church.”
“I would have just assumed or thought they would have been more flexible in general,” Kersey said.
He also strung a banner between posts that the city required him to take down because it violated Perry’s sign ordinance. Kersey said a location on the church property would have had much less visibility because the church is much farther from the road.
Kersey said he now moves quickly with signs for his church, which has about 100 people attending on a typical Sunday. He said he puts signs out Sunday morning and picks them back up soon after service.
Such a solution isn’t working for Myers, who said he had used signs to advertise a Friday night seafood buffet at the corner of Houston Lake and Country Club roads.
Those signs went up on city rights of way in front of a city-owned parcel. Without advertisements, Myers said the seafood buffet is now postponed until further notice.
He said he thinks the city should be willing to give him space for a sign or lease him space.
“I would think that anybody that made the commitment that I made and paid the taxes that I paid wouldn’t run into that much trouble to use a totally unused one-square-foot section of property,” Myers said.
Gilmour said the City Council had briefly considered leasing spaces for signs. But there are inherent problems, from increasing the amount of clutter to competition for particular locations. Such a move could have the city competing with the private sector for sign space while increasing maintenance problems.
“When council took all those factors into account, they determined the easiest and best policy was for the city not to allow any signage (in the right of way), period. ... There was no interest in council to pursue that option,” Gilmour said.
City Councilman Randall Walker said the city’s right of way will allow only a few kinds of signs, such as directional signs. He said Myers can request exemptions to the sign ordinance.
Walker said the city’s ordinance gives the city a clean, crisp look, and the ordinance is applied fairly.
“We treat everybody the same way, regardless of whether it’s a church or anybody else,” he said. “All of our businesses and churches are treated the same way. We try to be equitable with everybody.”
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.