Covington City Council members voted 3 to 2 to suspend until March 31 the regulation of temporary signs until new rules can be put in place.
A subcommittee comprised of three council members, Chris Smith, Keith Dalton and Hawnethia Williams, looked at the sign ordinance after Brian Burgoyne with Newton Federal Bank asked the council Oct. 15 to revisit its temporary sign ordinance saying that the council needed to consider the impact it had on nonprofits.
The committee reported back to council Monday and Smith made a motion to temporarily suspend the enforcement of temporary sign regulations. That motion failed 3 to 2 with councilwomen Janet Goodman, Ocie Franklin and Williams voting against the motion. Williams said she didn't think the council should suspend the ordinance for everybody.
However, Smith then made a motion with a deadline of March 31 to put new langugae in place and Franklin voted in support of that motion, which passed. Council member Mike Whatley left the council meeting early and did not vote on either motion.
The council began discussing whether it should suspend the temporary sign regulations after former mayor Kim Carter told the council she did not agree with suspending the enforcement of the temporary sign regulations. She told the council that the fairly new sign ordinance, which was passed during her term in office, still needed time to work because it was a new law.
"This was a pretty in-depth study that we had in our administration together. It took well over six months and we had special assigned attorneys to accomplish that to help Mr. Crudup and Mr. Turner," Carter said.
"It was a good example of compromise by this council. There were some that were on one extreme and some that were on the other. In the end, we came up to the middle in what I thought was a good sign ordinance. It's been in place about a year and I just like to implore you to give it time to work."
According to the temporary signs portion of the sign ordinance, temporary signs may be displayed upon the issuance of a temporary sign permit from the building official or his designee.
The signs must be attached to the building. No more than five temporary sign permits shall be authorized per year for the same location and tenant. Permits are valid for 30 consecutive days.
No more than two temporary sign permits should be issued back to back for a total of 60 consecutive days. After those 60 days, 30 consecutive days should pass before another permit is issued.
In downtown Covington, permits are valid for 14 consecutive days and 14 consecutive days should pass before another 14-day permit is issued. There is a $25 permit fee per year.
At the Oct. 15 council meeting, Burgoyne explained that Newton Federal Bank allowed nonprofits to place their signs up to advertise for free.
He told the council that there were more than five nonprofits that inquire about placing their signs up at the bank and the section of the ordinance that only allows five permits per year limits other nonprofits from displaying their signs.
"They don't have the funds to put their events in the newspaper or advertise to the community," Burgoyne said. "I'm not asking for an exception; I'm just asking for you to revisit it and maybe consider the impact this will have on [several organizations]."
At the meeting on Monday, Carter said she was sure Newton Federal Bank would not mind paying a $25 per year fee to advertise at their business for the various nonprofits and that the fee was reasonable for nonprofits.
Mayor Ronnie Johnston said his heart was split on the matter.
"There are many nonprofits right now that can not afford $25. It's tough times," he said.
City attorney Ed Crudup advised the council that if it suspended the temporary sign ordinance, it should be across the board and not just for nonprofits. Smith agreed with Crudup saying he was unhappy with the temporary sign regulations from the beginning.
"I think that right now, the way it was worded, I never was real happy with it from the beginning and I just think right now it's punishing more people than it is helping people," Smith said.
"I think we need to suspend it."