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Covington amending temp sign ordinance

COVINGTON — The first reading of an amendment to the city of Covington’s temporary sign ordinance was approved by the City Council at its March 18 meeting.

The council agreed to allow one temporary sign per parcel of land, free of charge, of up to 16 square feet.

The sign can remain up throughout the year and changed to advertise different messages or sales, without obtaining a permit from the city, said Councilman Chris Smith, who, along with Councilman Keith Dalton and Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams, served on a committee that recommended the change.

The committee took a second look at the sign ordinance following comments from a resident in October indicating it could be hurting nonprofits. The temporary sign ordinance also applies to business advertisements.

Smith said the change would also make it easy for code enforcement officers to enforce the ordinance, given that it would be easy to spot violations, since only one sign is allowed.

“We felt like this was pro-business. Obviously, if it doesn’t work, we can certainly revisit it again. The ordinance is a living, breathing document,” he said.

The city revamped its sign ordinance in 2011, requiring that temporary signs require a permit — a flat fee of $25 per year — and be issued a maximum of five times per calendar year, for 30 consecutive days, allowing two back-to-back permits issued for a maximum of 60 consecutive days.

But late last year, Brian Burgoyne, vice president of loans at Newton Federal Bank, a business that allows nonprofits to place signs advertising upcoming events or services on its front lawn, told the council the city’s sign ordinance affects the bank’s ability to provide free advertisement for nonprofits.

Smith said the changes are a good compromise.

But Jonathan Paschal, president of Smart Growth Newton County, said during the public comments portion of the meeting that he recently attended a flea market where merchants had signs outside their booths, and, “Since everybody had it, nothing stood out; it was just tacky. Temporary signs, sure, on occasion, but all day, every day, every business, that’s just tacky and we don’t need it.”

The first reading was approved unanimously. Councilman Mike Whatley was absent. A final reading is expected at the council’s April 1 meeting.