Fiscal court approves sign ordinance first reading

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Second reading expected Sept. 2

By Shelley Spillman

After much deliberation, a first reading of a proposed new sign ordinance narrowly passed in a 4-2 vote at the Anderson County Fiscal Court regular session Tuesday.

Voting in favor of the new sign ordinance was Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway, along with magistrates Juretta Wells, David Montgomery and Buddy Sims. Magistrates David Ruggles and Kenny Barnett voted against the ordinance, and Magistrate Forrest Dale Stevens was not present.

Fiscal court approved the sign ordinance first reading with the following amendments:

•In Section 1180 Non-conforming Signs portion number three, the language was changed to “A non-conforming sign shall be removed when the use to which it refers has been abandoned for more than six months or if the sign itself is abandoned.”

•Language was clarified in Section 1190 Off-site freestanding signs/billboards portion number four to ensure the it was understood only a total of four billboards will be permitted on the U.S. 127/Bluegrass Parkway interchange area and four permitted at exit 48 along the Bluegrass Parkway interchange area.

•Section 1110-01 Intent portion number three was changed to “It is recognized and understood that no ordinance can be written that can possible anticipate every individual situation, scenario, special circumstance, type of business and ongoing and changing future technologies. In those instances, every business or person may file an application for a variance or conditional use permit with the Board of Zoning Adjustments for, including but not limited to, the number of signs allowed, size, location, setback, heights, type of business, as well as sign types not anticipated by this ordinance.”

Ruggles said his main point of concern with the sign ordinance was the billboards along the bypass. Ruggles said he was opposed to any billboards along the bypass because once some are permitted it will open the door for more and get quickly out of hand.

“It’s a balance between public protection and government interference,” said Ruggles.

He said he felt billboards are an antiquated method of advertising and people primarily get their information on the internet or word of mouth about a product, business or service.

“There are 19,000 vehicles that go up and down the bypass every day. If a business can’t survive, there isn’t a billboard in the world that can save it,” said Ruggles.

Buddy Sims disagreed with Ruggles’ stance on billboards.

“I have no problem with any signs, especially billboards,” said Sims. He discussed the usefulness of billboards in promoting local businesses and providing economic development.

Ruggles had a different view on economic development.

He said economic growth comes from industry not billboards. He said the success of a business has everything to do with the word of mouth not billboards.

County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis said she appreciated the magistrates’ ability to have an eloquent and spirited debate. She said she understood both sides of the argument and urged Sims and Ruggles to find some sort of common ground and not throw out the entire ordinance over one particular point.

“A comprehensive document like this is never going to get to a point where everyone is satisfied,” said Lewis.

Ruggles refused to compromise on his opposition of billboards.

“I am doing a tremendous amount of compromise already,” said Ruggles. “There are a lot of things within this that I don’t like at all. The one thing I won’t compromise on is billboards.”

Barnett, who also voted against the sign ordinance, said he felt the new sign ordinance was “too restrictive.”

Last month, magistrates were split in half on passing and opposing the sign ordinance, making the motion fail.

The sign ordinance is a joint venture with the city, county and Anderson County Chamber of Commerce. Last month, the Lawrenceburg City Council unanimously passed the new ordinance, but could not move forward with a second reading until fiscal court also approved the first reading.

If passed, the sign ordinance will be extended from five-pages to a 30-page document.

Conway said he expects the second reading of the sign ordinances to come up on the Sept. 2 meeting.