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Businesses need to be aware of sign ordinance

On Aug. 7, the Demopolis City Council unanimously approved changes to its existing sign ordinance, loosening some of the restrictions in place after hearing complaints from local businesses. The changes allowed for banners to be used as signage, with certain restrictions.

Two months later, Demopolis building official Junior Brooker said that, for the most part, businesses have been in compliance with the new regulations.

The changes are addressed in City Ordinance 904.12, which reads: “Windblown devices, including but not limited to any banner, pennant, spinner, streamer, propeller, disc, moored blimp, gas balloon or flag that is designed to inform or attract attention are prohibited. However, temporary signs and banners may be permitted upon written application to the building official, subject to limitations and restrictions.”

National flags, political signs, temporary decorative bunting, banners and symbols displayed for not more than 30 days and directly related to special events of a public nature or public holidays are exempted from this ordinance.

Limitations and restrictions for those temporary signs and banners include:

Each permit requires a $10 fee, should be obtained at least five days prior to the event and will be valid for no more than 15 days. No more than one permit will be issued for the same premises more frequently than four times a year for a total of 60 days in a calendar year, and no more than one sign or banner will be allowed at a business at one time.

The business requesting the permit must show that the sign meets the banner guidelines checklist used by the city official to determine if a permit will be issued.

Businesses will be allowed to have an on-premises banner only. No banner will be allowed in a public right-of-way.

Signs and banners should be removed within three days of the expiration of the permit. No products will be advertised on a banner unless it is sold in the business.

Each new business will be allowed “grand opening” banners that may be put up 15 days prior to the opening and 30 days after the opening.

Violations such as torn, frayed, faded, without slack or improperly attached may result in the permit being voided.

Violations of the sign ordinance may be fined between $50 and $100, plus court costs for each offense.

“Some businesses don’t really know about (the sign ordinance,” Brooker said. “There is one business that I informed informally, and he didn’t take me seriously. I took a copy of the ordinance to them, and he still (didn’t comply), so I’m going to have to write a letter so I will have a record and send it certified.

“I was told that he wasn’t going to buy a permit for the banner, but there’s flagging out there, too. His comment was, ‘Well, y’all are just trying to run businesses out of town.’ I’ve heard those comments before. That’s the reason we worked on this. This was worked on for several months. He recently bought a business here in town, but I took him a letter saying the banners were prohibited, and he did take his banners down, but has chosen to put them back up.”

Brooker said that a lot of business owners may not be aware of the new ordinance.

“A lot of them knew that it was being worked on,” he said. “We’re not here to antagonize. We’re here because we were hearing that not being able to put up banners was hurting their business.

“We didn’t want visual clutter; we were trying to get rid of visual clutter. You can ride through some communities and know that there’s no regulation whatsoever. In all honesty, when the wind blows, the supports that the banners are on aren’t strong enough to keep them stretched tightly. Sometimes, the banner is leaned forward so far, you can’t read what it says.”

Brooker said that he wants local businesses to be aware of the new ordinance regarding banners and to follow through on its requirements. The purpose behind the ordinance is to help the city maintain a cleaner appearance and to allow local businesses to use banners within set restrictions. For more information on this ordinance or any other sign ordinances, call the Demopolis City Hall at 289-0577.