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City moves toward sign reg changes
RH council sets public hearing, takes complaint against moratorium
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While the Richmond Hill City Council recently took a step to move forward with changes to the city’s sign ordinance, one businessman is asking the city to reconsider the current moratorium on permanent signs within the city.
During its regular meeting March 19, the council approved a resolution that denotes the city’s plans to change various parts of the city’s ordinance regarding signs. City Manager Chris Lovell said in February the city had plans to look over the ordinance and “clean up some stuff” to regulate the appearance of signs, what constitutes a sign and more.
The resolution only addresses the city’s plans to make changes that can’t be voted on until two public hearings are held. Those are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 8 and 7 p.m. April 22, both in City Hall.
But despite the approval of the resolution, a moratorium approved by the council Feb. 5 on permanent signage within the city remains in effect until possible changes to the ordinance are voted on. This prompted Jeff Lazenby with Pocket Media to address the council.
“In the economic hardships we’re all under right now as businesses …, after reading the previous ordinance and comparing it to the new one, I commend you all for moving forward with an ordinance that’s a little more understandable and clarifying some of the sign ordinances in the past,” Lazenby told the council.
“However, I don’t see that there is that much difference between the current ordinance and the proposed ordinance in order to mandate a 60 day moratorium,” he continued. “As I see it we’re working into April 8 before a first reading, and that’s going to push that past the 60 days and looking at possibly a 90 day moratorium on signs. I don’t understand the logic by going forward with a moratorium.”
Lovell said in February the moratorium was placed because city officials were trying to update the city’s sign ordinance, which was “very confusing,” but noted temporary sign permits are still being issued.
Lazenby said the public had not been properly notified of the moratorium and added some projects he was working on for clients had been put on hold because of it.
He asked the council to consider removing the moratorium, but Mayor Harold Fowler told Lazenby the council’s policy for public comment was to take comments into consideration, but take no action.
Council member Russ Carpenter issued a statement via email after the meeting that said the purpose of the new sign ordinance is to help Richmond Hill be more visually appealing and wasn’t intended to hurt any business.
“Many in the city — business owners and citizens — have a vision of more visually appealing town.  The proposed changes are intended to move our city toward that vision,” he wrote. “Any new signs will be a type of what is called a monument sign —one that has a full base on the ground and is built with certain materials, such as brick. Businesses along I-95 will have unique regulations that allow the type of sign that is needed to pull travelers off of the interstate.  
“Our intent is not to hurt any business in the city.  We are not Hilton Head, and no one is trying to turn us into them, but new signs in Richmond Hill will have a more refined look as does Hilton Head and Bluffton.”

Read more in the March 27 edition of the News.

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