GREENBRIER — Officials are putting together a task force to research and help enforce regulations to commercial signs in Greenbrier.
Aldermen unanimously approved a resolution during Monday's regularly scheduled city council meeting that will allow the mayor to established a focus group with an overall goal of addressing and creating proposed revisions to the city's existing zoning code concerning commercial signs.
The issue fell before the Greenbrier City Council when reviewing a request for an LED sign to be installed at a new fast-food restaurant in town. Aldermen were asked to determine whether Burger King would be allowed to install an LED sign along Highway 65, an issue that arose several questions about the city's current policies.
"The council was asked to determine whether the restaurant would be allowed to place their sign there, when technically the zoning ordinance currently on the books has a prohibition against LED/video signs," city attorney Dustin Chapman said. "However, over the years, that rule has not [been] enforced and several other businesses and restaurants have been placing similar signs along the highway without any penalty or oversight. This prompted Burger King to ask for a variance of the prohibition so they could place a similar sign, and it also prompted the need for the planning commission and city council to revise the code section concerning commercial signs along Highway 65."
Because so many businesses already have like signs in place and in use, aldermen voted unanimously to grant a variance allowing Burger King to install an LED sign along the highly-trafficked highway that runs through the city. City officials also determined it was necessary to revisit policies pertaining to these type signs.
"We need to put a team together," Mayor Sammy Joe Hartwick said as he encouraged aldermen to allow him to head a task force that would address these issues.
The council unanimously approved allowing Mayor Hartwick to establish a team to address the lack of enforcement of its current code and revamp the city's policies to feature and accommodate modern needs. As the resolution reeds, the mayor is now "vested with authority to appoint a panel of city employees, consultants, and other interested persons to form a task committee to research and recommend comprehensive changes and revisions to [the] 'Section 16 — Signs' [ordinance]."
Chapman said the group is tasked with devising a plan that better accommodates modern businesses that will allow them to use these marketing tools while also keeping in mind resident and motorist safety.
"The goal will be to revise the sign code and develop a new, modern policy for LED/digital signs that will be accommodating to businesses but still have meaningful regulations to ensure traffic safety such as size, brightness, frequency of image changes, proximity to the highway and what content will be displayed," he said. "We don't want our highway to look like Las Vegas with huge digital signs everywhere, but we do see the practical benefits with these modern signs and we believe they can be used safely with reasonable regulations. The task group will include various citizens, consultants and city employees selected by the mayor to study this matter and make recommendations for a new sign policy."
In other business, aldermen also discussed the need to combine and revise several nuisances ordinances.
A proposed nuisance order will in essence take over six existing nuisance ordinances and stand as a collective policy for officials to reference during resident disputes.
Many of the issues that inspired this change derive from outdated ordinances, Chapman said, noting some are 20 years old.
"It consolidates six older ordinances regulating property, noise and animal issues, where several items in those old ordinances needed to be amended, simplified and updated," he said. "Instead of the council trying to update and revise all six different codes ... this is a much simpler way to bring these rules together under the same heading. We want people to easily understand what types of issues are prohibited nuisances, and it makes it easier for our code enforcement officer to answer questions from property owners."
Aldermen will revisit and discuss the proposed nuisance ordinance consolidation during its July meeting.