BAY MINETTE, Ala. – The city’s sign ordinance will have to wait a little while longer, after business people blindly protested the proposed changes.
Chuck Stevens owns three car dealerships in Bay Minette and had a total of 19 employees at a public hearing Monday during the regular City Council meeting. Stevens, and four of his employees who spoke, said the dealerships rely on signs to attract customers.
Because of the opposition from the business community, the council took no action. Danleigh Corbett made a motion to approve the changes, which the planning commission has worked on for six months. The motion died for the lack of a second.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t act on it tonight,” said Mayor Bob Wills. “I’m disappointed for the planning committee, who volunteered their time and effort on this.”
“I know that I am aggressive in my signage. Bay Minette doesn’t have the population base to support the current business,” Stevens said. “We have to use signs and sales to attract outside customers.”
The dealership employees were against the presumed ban on banners, streamers and balloons.
“The streamers and balloons catch the eye,” said Jonathan King, Stevens’ vice president of retail sales. “The Chevy place put up streamers, balloons and the blowup (gorilla) and had the biggest month ever.
Arlene Pfeffer of Pfeffer Flooring has been in business in Bay Minette for 35 years said she would like to see business people more involved in crafting the sign ordinance.
“The beautiful crepe myrtles (the city planted along Highway 31) totally block the sign on our building from most motorists,” said Pfeffer. “While I don’t have a banner, I would like to know that I could if I wanted to.”
Stevens admitted he knew nothing of the sign ordinance until Pfeffer dropped by the dealership around 1 p.m. Monday. “We quickly mobilized,” he said.
“None of us have even seen the ordinance,” said King. “We just heard about it.”
The council placed a moratorium on digital signs in January to give the planning commission more time to revamp the sign ordinance. In mid-July, the council got the commission’s proposed changes. At the same time, the council set Monday as a public hearing. Commission vice-chair Karmen Still said that for the last six weeks, the proposed changes have been available for the public to view at city hall. The full sign ordinance can be accessed at municode.com through the Bay Minette city website.
“The things they were complaining about, banners and streamers, are already prohibited by the sign ordinance,” said Still. “It’s just not being enforced. We didn’t change that part.
“We wanted to revise some portions of the ordinance before we started to enforce the full ordinance.”
The matter will now go back to the planning commission.
“We will consider what they had to say, maybe revise our stance and propose changes,” said Still.
“We don’t want to do anything to negatively impact the city,” said Wills. “We still want to make the city look as good as it can. It is important to industrial recruitment.”
Wills said the council’s ignorance of the process led to the lack of action. The changes require two readings before they can be enacted.
“We could have passed it tonight and waited six months to work everything out before we finalized it,” said Wills. “This will not be the end of the process.”