WR council moves toward revised sign ordinance

WARNER ROBINS — The city’s current ordinance on signs could soon see major changes affecting size, location and wording, among other things.

City Attorney Jim Elliott said during Tuesday’s pre-council work session that the current structure of the sign ordinance is receiving an overhaul to adhere to recent changes to state and federal law.

“The new (ordinance) deals with provisions that deal with the content of signs, on-premise versus not-on-premise signs ... and other content regulation deemed unconstitutional,” Elliott said.

The provisions were made after a Conyers billboard company challenged the city’s sign regulation wording. Southern Advertising and Sign Erectors wrote a letter to the city citing the unconstitutionality of its regulations, including speech restrictions and a permit requirement. Company officials would not comment on the matter.

The council placed a moratorium June 1 on all signs — from those for small businesses to billboards — to research the current ordinance and see what changes needed to be made. Last month, the council voted to lift the moratorium on smaller signs. About a handful of businesses have already sought to erect new signs or replace signs for their businesses, city officials said.

The current ordinance does have some restrictions on what can be said, which will be changed, Elliott said. It also will detail new regulations for where businesses can advertise. Currently, a business is not allowed to advertise off its premises.

“That’s going to change,” he said.

Elliott also said the city will exercise its authority over signs in residential zones. You can say what you want, Elliott said, but the city may regulate the size of the message.

“We think that’s a legitimate exercise of policing power,” he said.

Also added to the ordinance, Elliott said, is wording to say what will happen if a sign permit is long delayed by city employees.

“We’ll specifically say it’s granted if city employees don’t act upon it,” he said.

The ordinance will go to the city’s planning and zoning board, which will hear public comments, then make a recommendation to the city council. The council, which could also hold a public hearing on the matter, will then vote on the ordinance.

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.