Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jefferson County, Ala needs to change its sign ordinance, and now is (finally) the time

Back in the old days of 2006, we were working with the Jefferson County Commission to change its sign ordinance. The triggering event was a furniture store placing a digital billboard on a pocket of unincorporated land in the midst of Hoover. A few years later, a second board on another "pocket" was put up. We wrote proposed changes to the law, but because of other politics of the time (the sewer fiasco), we weren't able to get anything through.

Fast forward to 2015, and it happened again. A local billboard company suddenly started building a huge digital billboard on a pocket of unincorporated property in Homewood. This time, local residents erupted and have been unrelenting in pushing their local and state officials to stop it. The kind of law we weren't able to get passed in 2006 would have prevented this, but it's not too late for the county. We will be working to amend the ordinance to protect the people of the county against the infestation and intrusion of digital billboards (and any other kind).

From our files, this was the proposal in 2006. It would be a good start for 2015.

PROPOSALS FOR CHANGES TO JEFFERSON COUNTY SIGN ORDINANCE
MAY 2006

NO NEW BILLBOARD CONSTRUCTION PERMITTED IN JEFFERSON COUNTY
Current law sets cap on number of billboards - this should be changed so that no permits will be issued for new locations. This will protect developing transportation corridors such as the Northern Beltline and Corridor X/I-22.

INCREASE SPACING REQUIREMENTS  TO PROTECT RESIDENTIAL AREAS
Current spacing requirements are inadequate to protect residential areas as they develop. Jurisdictions are now adopting  1,500-foot requirements in their ordinances. All distance requirements should be changed (between boards, distance from certain districts).If new billboards are not permitted, then the effect of this amendment will be to make some billboards non-conforming,  so that if they were destroyed they could not be reconstructed .

STRENGTHEN ORDINANCE IN REGARD TO DIGITAL DISPLAY AND ANIMATION
Animated signs should not be permitted at all. When the ordinance was written, animation meant the old-fashioned light-bulb type sign. Today's animated signs are "Jumbotron" displays which are distracting and ugly. (See Ashley Furniture in Hoover, and Auto Mall in Irondale). For the benefit of the public, the ordinance should not allow any more animated signs.

Digital displays are being touted as the wave of the future. However, in practice they are glaring, distracting to drivers and potentially unsafe. A good example is a digital display near the Oxmoor Industrial park, which shines right into drivers' eyes on West Oxmoor as they approach it. At least one company, Lamar, has stated (in a meeting in Daphne) that they have already purchased many of these units and are now trying to convince cities to allow them to be installed. The ordinance should set strict limits on size, brightness and location of digital displays, if they are to be permitted at all.

1 comment:

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