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City votes 3-1 for new sign regs

Hunter casts lone dissenting vote

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POSTED: May 11, 2013 2:30 p.m.

After weeks of planning, consulting with business owners and deliberation, the city of Richmond Hill has put in place new sign regulations after the city council approved a new sign ordinance Tuesday.
The council approved 3-1 the ordinance during its regular meeting on Tuesday in City Hall. Council member Van Hunter cast the nay vote, citing an issue with the Architectural Review Board, a committee that helped create the new regulations.
“I do have one glaring issue, and again, it has to do with the Architectural Review Board,” Hunter said. “… I find it difficult to vote on a document that has defined an entity that at this present time has no organization to it, no qualifications for members, no time for meetings, no policy and procedures to provide.”
The duties of the ARB would be to help new businesses understand sign ordinance requirements regarding landscaping, aesthetics of design and more. The ARB would serve as a recommending body only, according to council member Russ Carpenter.
Hunter said he had an issue from a “legal standpoint” that the ARB’s “responsibility and function” have not been approved by the council. He also suggested letting the duties of the ARB go to the Planning and Zoning Commission currently in place. He added some people viewed the inception of the ARB as “another layer of bureaucracy.”
City Inspections Supervisor Randy Dykes told the council the Planning and Zoning Commission would serve as the ARB until City Attorney Ray Smith had a chance to look over formal documents regarding the ARB’s purpose and guidelines. The city would then hold two public hearings about the ARB before a vote to approve the board.
The new sign ordinance was approved with an amendment to include a grandfather clause. The clause states that all previously existing signs within the city that are replaced, reconstructed or repaired due to damage by “an act of God or other accident,” shall abide by the zoning ordinance in place when the sign was permitted.Carpenter stood before the crowd of about 40 people in City Hall to announce the major changes and make some clarifications before the matter went to the council for a vote.
“We needed a fair and logical plan or position to take with new businesses coming in as opposed to asking them out of the goodness of their hearts to try to spruce up their buildings a little bit,” Carpenter said. “These are businesses unlike you, they don’t live and work in Richmond Hill—it’s the national chains, the franchises, they don’t have the buy-in that you and I have.”
He told the crowd the council and the committee that worked on the new ordinance took into consideration concerns from business owners about quill flags, vehicles signage and window signage—all of which are allowed in the new ordinance with some regulation.
“You have legitimate concerns, these are your businesses, this is how you put food on the table and I understand that fully as does the committee,” Carpenter said. “Based on those concerns of what you voiced in the public hearings, what you’ve told us, what you’ve told committee members, we changed many things in the ordinance.”
Also, “at the end of the day, nothing is written in stone,” he said.
“In my time on the council, we have often needed to change an ordinance or tweak a process,” Carpenter said. “We can do it legally and we can do it fairly, but it can be done.
We will do the same with this when and if needed. I ask you support what our simple goal is, simply to make Richmond Hill just a little better. I maintain that this will be good for all of us.”
Numerous business owners were signed up to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting including Donnie Routh with Baldino’s, Anne O’Neal of Hill House Coffee Café, Jay Williams with Richmond Hill Auto Care, Brian Pruitt with Augie’s Pub and others.

Read more in the May 11 edition of the News.

 

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