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Leesburg has a sign ordinance?

By   /   November 12, 2009  /   Comments

Apparently so, and on the night of my defeat, a new war began.

Not much happened at the Leesburg City Council meeting this week. It started out with a public hearing on a $500K grant the city got to repair some stormwater drainage from the Stonegate apartment area out to Robert B Lee drive. One property owner in the area asked if it covered improvements along the other side of the railroad tracks and was told it did not.

During committee reports, Councilman Bob Wilson asked the chief of police to say a few words about an arrest they made last week. A married man from Alpharetta was busted at McDonald’s after an Internet sting where he thought he was coming down here to meet and have sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Also during committee reports, the city engineer asked the council to consider creating a stormwater utility that upon first glance appears to be a back-door way to raise our taxes. I’ll need to look into this a bit more, but that was my honest impression when I was sitting there listening to him.

Next, Councilwoman Debra Long asked the council to consider moving its regular meeting time to 6 p.m., which was unanimously adopted after being motioned and seconded by other Council members. This will go into effect with the next meeting, Dec 1.

Finally, three people spoke during the public forum at the end of the meeting. I was up first fulfilling the one campaign promise I made – mentioning some problems people in Indian Oaks were having with stormwater flowing off the parking lot at the high school and creating mini-lakes in their yard. Mayor Quinn said that this is a known issue with the council, and that there was nothing the Council could do about it.

Next, the owner of Leesburg Barber Shop stood up to inquire about Leesburg’s own sign ordinance. I wasn’t even aware we had one – and not only do I think they are completely illegal and immoral, I’m honestly not sure why the city of Leesburg even thinks we need one. The Barber Shop is struggling, as are most other businesses in this time, and the owner has had to drop his prices twice recently. He paid $6,800 for this sign three years ago, and it has yet to pay for itself.

At that time, he called someone with either the city or county government – he’s not sure who now, three years later – and was given verbal approval before he bought it. Apparently, in recent weeks this sign has brought him a bit of business, and he hopes this continues. But he also has employment opportunities over at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, and if he is forced to remove this sign he may well have to close his shop and leave town. Mayor Quinn and several Council members spoke in favor of the sign ordinance, with Quinn in particular telling this business owner that his sign was “clearly illegal”.

Tom’s issues with the Albany sign ordinance are well known, and now it appears that I have a similar fight of my own. The Barber Shop’s sign is nothing to be concerned about – it is a simple scrolling LED message board (roughly 6-inches tall by call it 6-foot wide?) placed inside his window facing out. You basically have to be staring right at it to even know it is there – even when waiting on the traffic light to turn on to Walnut Ave from the Courthouse at night, as I have done.

Let’s go a bit further with this one though, shall we? Leesburg has three gas stations, two of which are directly across the road from each other. The FlashFoods has an LED sign for their gas prices. This is easy to change from inside the store in any weather and at a moment’s notice. When the Chevron across the street asked to be allowed to put a similar sign up, they were told they could not, per the sign ordinance. This means that an employee of the Chevron must manually go out to the sign and change the plastic numbering, no matter what the weather is like when the price change is ordered.

I can tell you from personal experience working in a gas station several years ago that this sucks! Not to mention the fact that it causes a competitive disadvantage on the Chevron vs. the FlashFoods. Thus, local government favors one business over another, even though the two businesses are literally across the street from each other! This should not be! I urge the council to repeal this ordinance at their next meeting, or at a bare minimum revise it significantly.

Finally, Foxie Harper asked the council why the change was made in the billing process to move from a post card to a full envelope with a return envelope, asking for both the reasoning and how much extra it cost the city. Told that it was the result of a federal privacy law, she dropped her objection.

The next meeting of the City Council will be on Dec 1 at 6 p.m. I’ll be there, and if you live in Leesburg I hope to see you there!

jeffsexton

Jeff Sexton.

Written by Jeff Sexton. Jeff Sexton co-owns the political blog SWGAPolitics.com and is a candidate for the Leesburg City Council.

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