City of Covington reconsiders sign ordinance

COVINGTON -- The city of Covington is reconsidering its sign ordinance after a local businessman said it could negatively impact nonprofits.

Brian Burgoyne is vice president of loans at Newton Federal Bank, a business that allows non-profits to place signs advertising upcoming events or services on its front lawn to be viewed by the thousands of motorists traveling U.S. Hwy. 278 every day.

Burgoyne said that while he is not speaking on behalf of Newton Federal, the city's sign ordinance does impact the bank's ability to provide that free advertisement for nonprofits.

Certain provisions of the ordinance "could suck the lifeblood out of our non-profits," he told the council at its Oct. 15 meeting.

Of concern are the regulations regarding temporary signs. Temporary signs must be attached to buildings under the new ordinance, and require a permit. They can also only be issued a maximum of five times per calendar year for 30 consecutive days. Two back-to-back permits can be issued for a maximum of 60 consecutive days, and after that, 30 days must pass before another permit is issued.

The exception is downtown Covington, where temporary signs can be displayed for one period of 14 days and another 14 days must pass before another permit is issued. The permit fee is a flat $25 per year regardless of how many permits are issued.

The regulations mean that only five nonprofits per year can use Newton Federal's site and "there are a whole lot more than that out there," Burgoyne said. Operation Sandbox, a charity that mails care packages to soldiers overseas, and Steeplechase, a 5K hosted by First United Methodist Church, recently had to remove their signs after being notified by the city's inspector they were in violation of the ordinance, because the signs were not attached to the building, he said.

Burgoyne said he supports the sign ordinance, which was passed in late 2011, but he asked the City Council to revisit the section related to temporary signs. A co-chair of the local Relay for Life and a volunteer with the recent Community On Our Knees event, Burgoyne said he understands how important it is for nonprofits to get the word out about their fundraisers and services, especially when so many are operating on a limited budget and don't have funds for advertising.

"I'm not asking them to make an exception because an exception would open Pandora's box, but I'm asking them to revisit it," he said.

Councilmen Chris Smith and Keith Dalton and Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams volunteered to serve on a subcommittee that will reconsider the sign ordinance.

The city revamped its sign ordinance last year to address public complaints and complaints from business owners related to temporary signs. City officials said the goal of the new regulations is to allow property owners to display messages in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.