Covington altering sign ordinance

COVINGTON -- An ordinance amendment under consideration by the City Council would decrease the size of commercial signs by nearly half.

The proposed amendment would reduce the square footage of sign faces allowed in mixed-use commercial districts from 120 square feet to 80 square feet and reduce the height from 15 feet to 8 feet.

One sign structure per road frontage per lot is allowed, with the total square footage for a two-face sign at a maximum of 160 square feet.

For lots containing a principal building of more than 65,000 square feet, the maximum area per sign would be reduced from 200 to 150 square feet per face, or an aggregate total area not to exceed 300 square feet, a 25 percent reduction.

Planning Director Randy Vinson said the changes were proposed after complaints from residents regarding two large signs depicting teeth, advertising a dental office, were erected on Washington Street.

"We got several phone calls as soon as they went up. People were wondering how we let that get through our sign ordinance, but they fall within the dimensions of allowable signs," Vinson said.

The dental business owner later came to the city to complain about his competitor advertising another dental business with large "teeth" signs.

"We got even more calls then and several council members called to say we needed to look into it. We did a field survey on existing signs on (U.S. Highway) 278 and Washington Street to see what's out there and what's working," Vinson said. "We're not trying to restrict anybody from advertising their business or limit visibility. We're trying to get it on a scale more aesthetically pleasing to most of the people voicing their displeasure."

Vinson said most new signs fell within the 80-square-foot and 8-foot-high range, the standards applied for the bypass corridor that were passed several years ago. Even big box retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, have met that standard in Covington, he said.

While most commercial areas fall in the mixed use zoning classification, Vinson said the council will be considering applying those standards to other zoning districts, including industrial, as well.

"Nobody will be forced to take their sign down to come into compliance," Vinson said, noting that existing signs are grandfathered in. The face of existing signs can be altered but they cannot be enlarged and if they are torn down or fall down, if rebuilt they must meet the new standards.

The first reading of the ordinance amendment was approved Monday night. Final approval is expected to come at the council's March 1 meeting.