By Kevin Hogencamp
Loud and clear, Albany commissioners are getting the message from business operators about the city’s new sign ordnance: It’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Indeed, on Tuesday, the commission will consider setting a moratorium on sign code enforcement until after the 2009 election. Meanwhile, Commissioner Morris Gurr, Assistant City Manager James Taylor and other city staffers will meet with business operators at 3 p.m. today (Wednesday, July 1) in room 120 of the Government Center to hear their concerns about the city’s sign regulations.
During a six-month enforcement hiatus, commissioners may “tweak” the ordinance, said Gurr, whose first four-year term representing Ward 3 expires at the end of the year.
“After I had several businesses — used car dealerships, drive-thru restaurant, a mattress store, and other types — voice concerns about the enforcement of the sign ordinance, I took the initiative to ask them if they would agree to participate in a forum with city staff to voice their concerns,” Gurr said. “My main purpose in this is that each one I talked to had a little bit different angle on how the sign ordinance was affecting them.
“So, rather than deal with these concerns one at a time I thought it prudent to bring them to the table all at once for staff to hear and then to make possible recommendations on changes to the sign ordinance. I told every business I talked to that I was just one vote but that I believed they deserved a voice to validate their concerns. It would be up to the entire commission to ‘tweak’ the ordinance and make any changes it may deem necessary. My role at the Wednesday meeting is to only give a short welcome and introduction.”
Murr said he will mull whether to support a sign code moratorium after Wednesday’s meeting.
The sign ordinance also is now on the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s radar. Katherine Glover, the chamber’s president, said that two weeks ago, “we picked up a copy of the sign ordinance, and our advocacy team has reviewed all 18 pages.”
“As an organization, we’re in a position now that we’ve not been in prior to 2009, as we now have a registered lobbyist on staff that works not only on the State level, but also on the local level,” Glover said in an e-mail to a chamber member. “We’re therefore now able to better address the advocacy needs of the regional business community.
“Our next step will be to send an electronic communication out to our membership early next week, through our weekly e-newsletter to ascertain which local issues directly impact their business. We’ll then act accordingly once we receive input from the close to 1,200 businesses that we serve in this region.”
After City Manager Alfred Lott refused to enforce the city’s sign ordinance for several years, the sign code was refined last year without an effort to involve businesses affected by changes. Indeed, in reviewing the sign ordinance, city officials set their sights largely son electronic billboards that had illegally sprung up over the last four years while city commissioners and staff looked the other way, saying that its law was unconstitutional. But the billboard industry successfully lobbied commissioners – and the electronic message boards were legalized.