The county took another step towards revising its banner ordnances on Thursday.
The Conyers-Rockdale Planning Commission gave their stamp of approval on new ordinances regulating the display of banner signs.
The current ordinance, which makes no distinction between non-profits and commercial businesses, was designed to accommodate special events such as festivals or grand openings, explained Yolanda Mack, director of General Services and Engineering. In the new ordinances, non-profits and commercial businesses will be split and have a slightly different set of regulations for each.
The current rules say that entities are allowed to display up to 24-square-feet of banners for a maximum of 10 days consecutively and up to three times a year.
In the new ordinance for commercial businesses, which passed with one dissenting vote, businesses will be allowed to display up to 50 square feet of banners for a maximum of 30 consecutive days. They will be allowed two permits a year and no waiting period is required between permits. The banners cannot be used to advertise space for sale or lease.
Committee member Tom Harrison voted against the ordinance because he felt it didn’t go far enough, he said. "I knew I couldn’t change it, but I felt like the county should have adopted something closer to the city’s ordinance," he said.
Non-profits will be allowed to display up 40-square-feet of banners for a maximum of 30 days consecutively and will be allowed three permits a year. They will be required to wait 30 days between special events and will not be allowed to display commercial messages on the banners.
After hearing concerns and public comments about whether the non-profit section of the ordinance could be used to stifle free speech, the committee added phrasing to prevent the encroachment on freedom of speech and personal rights. Committee member Linda Carter, who was the dissenting vote against the ordinance, said the addition was unnecessary, since the ordinance was not intended to address freedom of expression.
The changes come after feedback early in the year from county businesses and the Chamber of Commerce on dissatisfaction with the restrictiveness of current regulations.
David Shipp, chairman of the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce governmental affairs committee, said the chamber supported the change. "We realize nobody wants to have a county full of ratty temporary banner signs. That looks ugly and that’s not effective that way," he said. "In these hard economic times anything a business can do to help their sales, we need to help them to do it."
The amended ordinances will now go before the Zoning Committee on Aug. 27. If it is approved and recommended, the Board of Commissioners will hold a first reading at their Sept. 8 meeting.