Council split on banner limits

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 24, 2006

For some time, the city of Demopolis has struggled with what to do about businesses using banners on their buildings and property in excess.

Some feel the banners, which hang for months at a time, do not help the city put its best foot forward.

Recently, the city’s Planning Commission presented a plan to regulate banners for the city. But, when the plan was presented to the council Thursday night, there were several concerns.

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First, there was the cost. A $10 fee was proposed to allow businesses apply for the right to use banners. The fee, Councilman Jack Cooley said, drew a red flag.

“I have some concerns about charging business owners if they have a license, an additional fee for the very limited use of a banner,” Cooley said. “I understand the reasoning and wanting to control it, but why could we not control it without an additional fee from someone who is already paying us a license fee?”

The fee, Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said, was simply an easy way t keep up with who did and did not have a permit.

“It basically just covers the time in issuing the fee charge,” Williamson said. “If we charge 200 or so businesses it is a time factor. Also, it is a way to get people to come in here and get a permit.”

In no way, she said, was the fee a way to draw revenue.

“This is not a way to try to increase revenue for the city at all,” Williamson said. “It is not meant for revenue.”

Councilman Woody Collins had to concerns. First, the loose language of the plan said there were only 15 days, but allowed a grace period of three days. An effective plan, Collins said, should state a certain number of days and enforce that number.

“This permit is supposed to be good for 15 days, but it says there is a three day grace period to take it down,” Collins said. “If it is going to be an 18 day period let’s make it an 18 day period. If it is going to be a 15 day period, let’s make it a 15 day period.”

The frequency banners could be used, Collins said, also presented a problem.

“Six times a year is a lot,” Collins said. “I don’t know if you need to increase the time frame to less time, but that is a lot of paperwork, a lot of comments and a lot of regulatory.”

One suggestion was only allow banners to be used on holidays, grand openings, or closings. But, the council agreed, this would hurt businesses that held sales in between holidays.

They also agreed it would be difficult to keep up with who was in violation.

In the end, the council chose to send the plan back to the planning commission. After the commission makes adjustments, the council will discuss the plan again.

The city also voted to take control of Lock Four from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

The Corp, Collins said, was unable to keep the area up because of dwindling funds.

“In the last line of budget cuts, they lost the funding to continue to support and keep open Lock Four,” Collins said. “They want the city to keep it up.”

The park, Collins said, would be on a long-term lease and could be used for recreation, business or any number of things, Collins said.

The lease for the 13 acre area, he said, would be anywhere from zero to a minimum cost.