Public hearing called before sign ordinance vote

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 1999

The City of Greenville may be getting a new set of laws regarding sign placement and size next week during a city council meeting which will be held following a public hearing for anyone who would like to have input before the final vote.

An ordinance committee has been working on the sign ordinance since late summer and their sixth draft has made it to the council for consideration of approval. City Inspector Lannie Smith, who has been working on the ordinance, said that the proposed legislation will play an important role in helping to keep the city attractive.

"I (Smith) saw a need for one (sign ordinance) and the planning commission agreed that it was something we should look into. If you have no regulations people or groups will tend to target you as a community and do what they want. We felt it was important to set a standard for what Greenville will allow," Smith said.

In the process of drafting the ordinance committee asked for input from local residents and anyone who had a concern in regard to a sign law.

They also invited Ralph Stacy of the Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Idland, a local business owner and director of Mainstreet and Bill Salter of Salter Signs to become voting members of the committee to encourage diversity on the committee.

"We wanted a lot of input from as many people as possible," Smith said. "I feel that we did everything we could do to allow people an opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter. That is why we ended up with six drafts of the ordinance."

The ordinance purpose as stated on the document itself is to "encourage the effective use of signs as a means of communication in the City of Greenville; to maintain and enhance the aesthetic environment and the city's ability to attract sources of economic development and growth; to improve pedestrian and traffic safety; and to minimize the possible adverse effect of signs on nearby public and private property."

The ordinance sites limitations for signs on both public and private property. Those that do not meet the standard as proposed by the law will be subject to removal by the city. Smith said many of the regulations are common and have already been part of the State's sign laws.

"Those on private property can not interfere with the vision of motorists or be erected so that it is confused with official traffic signs. The proposed ordinance will no longer allow signs to be posted on utility poles, road signs or trees and those on the right-of-way also will be prohibited unless they have been erected by a governmental body," he said.

If the new ordinance were to pass, portable signs will require a permit from the Department of Building and Planning and may not by illuminated. They also must be moved after 30 days and can not be replaced for 60 days.

"Those types of signs were meant to be temporary. Many times the extension cord that is run out to a sign is a violation of the fire code and this ordinance will require that people and businesses use these signs only on a temporary basis," Smith said.

Lighting is another item the ordinance covers. When electrical power is needed, it must be supplied by a battery pack or underground wiring.

"Signs that are within 150 feet of a residential zone may only be illuminated during the hours of operation of the business and none of those signs can be illuminated between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.," he said.

Most of the signs that are associated with residential districts such as real estate signs, property identification, private property signs and danger from animals are not a problem in the ordinance. However, signs erected in connection with elections or political campaigns must be removed within three days after the election.

Signs allowed in construction zones with some restrictions include: freestanding signs (which must be permanent, pole mounted) building signs, development entrance signs, church identification signs, temporary construction site signs and real estate signs.

There also are requirements for those in general commercial zones. Freestanding signs, building signs, projecting signs, marquees, development entrance signs, church identification signs, temporary construction signs and real estate signs are allowed in the proposed ordinance with some restrictions ton size and placement.

Billboards also are restricted within the ordinance. Smith said that Greenville needs laws restricting the placement of billboards on the Interstate and on other highways.

"Right now we have signs of all heights out on the Interstate leading into the city," he said. "With the possible development of the second exit in the future, I do not think we should make the same mistake twice. This ordinance will regulate these billboards to make them more uniform."

The ordinance would require that billboards be constructed of a one-pole, engineer-designed structure and can not be less than 200 feet from a residential area.

Billboards on smaller highways, like Highway 31 or 10, will be smaller. They are restricted to 250 square feet.

Smith said that the input of Salter was crucial in making the decisions on billboards and signs for businesses.

"He (Salter) was very informative as far as giving us an idea of what opinions someone who is in the sign business would have. He gave us a lot of input and I think the ordinance is much better because of it," Smith said.

In all, Smith said the proposed ordinance is not very restrictive.

"This is mostly common sense," he said. "There are not a lot of changes and much of the ordinance mirrors the state's code. But, there are some subjects we needed to address for the future of our community."

A public hearing will be held at 5 p.m. Dec. 28 at the council chambers in city hall. The hearing is intended for those with concerns to address the council before their scheduled vote on the ordinance at the council meeting to follow at 5:30 p.m.