Business owners ask city for relief

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 21, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; City business owners had a clear goal in mind at Monday&8217;s public meeting &8212; relief from ordinances they deem restrictive to their businesses&8217; attempts to advertise.

The sometimes-contentious meeting was in response to a request made through the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce that city ordinances 904.4 and 904.12 be rescinded for a year, in order to allow businesses to use banner-type advertising to attract customers.

But planning commission members balked at recomm-ending the city simply rescind those ordinances. The commission gathered ordinances from other cities of a comparable size &8212; and all of those ordinances restricted banners to some degree.

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But if there is, business owners hope the city finds it fast.

But planning commission member Clarence Brooker said he was unsure why business owners wanted to use banners to advertise.

Banners are only allowed for non-profit events or &8220;things of public interest,&8221; Brooker said.

Most of the attendees said they wanted to find middle ground for business owners and the city.

But at least one businessman said that the city should have no say over what he does with his enterprise.

Cowling told the board that economic times are squeezing small business owners.

Other business owners agreed, like Trish McVay, whose teacher supply store is feeling the crunch.

Walker, whose furniture business has fallen by more than 1 percent each of the past two years, said that as business shrinks, ordinances like these may serve to keep natural beauty &8212; but they also serve to choke small business owners.

Business owners are also upset because they perceive the city is enforcing its banner codes unfairly. While events &8220;of public interest&8221; can use banners, city businesses cannot. And, business owners say, some businesses hang banners &8212;in defiance of city laws &8212;without being penalized.

But Walters said he could understand the city&8217;s dilemma.