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City Planners Recommend Change In Ordinance For Sign Restrictions

Planning Commissioners Ken French, Billy Humphreys, Bonnie Cox, and Levert Hawkins tackle sign issue. Humphreys did not vote because his company is involved with the Sonic project.

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY  – The new Sonic Drive-In will be allowed to use their standard sign after the Planning Commission voted to grant the fast-food restaurant a variance at their meeting Monday night.

The commissioners also decided to conduct a study and propose to the Board of Aldermen that the ordinance be modified to allow larger signs in areas zoned highway commercial. The current ordinance restricts signs in all areas to 40 square feet of less.

Commission co-chairman Ken French chaired the meeting after Chairman Billy Humphreys recused himself because his company, M & H Builders, is the contractor for Sonic.

Frank Hernandez, area supervisor for Sonic, explained to the commissioners that his company doesn’t have a sign that meets the current criteria. “It’s going to come out to about 100 square foot per side at least,” he said.

French said that he and others had researched the subject. “I can understand the 40 square feet when you have adjoining businesses downtown. But, I think it is too restrictive for businesses that don’t adjoin.”

“I don’t know what the right size should be, but I don’t think it should be forty square feet,” he added.

A check of other ordinances around the country shows that many allow signs from 100 to 300 square feet. For example, Rogers, Ark., allows freestanding or pole signs in a highway commercial zone to be a maximum of 200 square feet while Leonardtown, Md., allows signs having a total area of not over 100 square feet for each building or street frontage.

Some cities base the size of signs on the size of the building. Raytown, Mo., allows three square feet of sign area for each foot of building lineage. However, they do restrict signs to a total surface area of 300 square feet.

The planning commissioners agreed that the ordinance needed to be modified to differentiate between areas zoned highway commercial and those zoned central business district or neighborhood convenience.

“If we leave the existing wording in place for highway commercial there are big problems with a couple of the businesses with their signage. Big problems,” French emphasized. “The current ordinance does not allow existing signage to be ‘grandfathered’ and gives businesses five years to comply.”

The commissioners discussed how to correct the ordinance so the highway commercial areas would be protected from signs that are too large and still meet the requirements for businesses in those areas.

Then the commissioners agreed to do a study and propose that the ordinance be modified to account for the difference between areas zoned highway commercial and those zoned central business district or neighborhood convenience.

They also voted unanimously to grant a variance to the Sonic Drive-In to allow the installation of their sign as purposed.

Along with French and Humphreys, commissioners Bonnie Cox and Levert Hawkins were present at the meeting.

The Planning Commission meets on the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the boardroom at City Hall. Persons wishing to appear before the group should call City Clerk Vivian Snider to be placed on the agenda.

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