Lee Commission hears sign ordinance proposal

LEESBURG, Ga. -- After more than a year on the drawing board, a number of planning sessions and several public hearings, Lee County Commissioners were presented a final version of what could become the county's new sign ordinance Tuesday night.

Paul Forgey, planning director with the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, highlighted some of the changes in the latest version of the proposed ordinance at the commission's work session Tuesday.

"We've been working with the Regional Commission on this proposal for a number of months now," Lee Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander said. "We've met with business owners and members of the community and have gotten a number of suggestions. All of them were taken into consideration."

Among the new items included in the ordinance proposal:

-- Most existing signs in the county that do not conform with new regulations will be "grandfathered in" without penalty. "Planning staff and the Regional Commission looked at the signs in the county, and we found only a few that didn't meet the standards," Forgey said. "There were only three or four that didn't, and we didn't feel it was worth a fight for that few signs."

- No new billboards will be allowed in the county. No billboard can be located within 1,000 feet of a residential district and must be 2,000 feet from any other billboard.

- No illuminated signs will be allowed

in a residential district.

- Multiple message signs may change no more frequently than every 20 seconds.

- Flags will be limited to three on a commercial lot.

- Nonconforming signs -- including portable signs and excess ground signs (one per frontage) -- must be removed within a year of the sign ordinance being adopted.

"You, of course, have the option of altering any of the restrictions in the ordinance," Forgey said. "The idea is to eliminate clutter that disrupts vision on the roads and keep within the character of what you want Lee County to be."

The Commission voted to approve funding for equipment and gear for the new Smithville fire/EMS station, agreeing to Fire Chief James Howell's request to push the vote forward rather than wait until the commission's Sept. 28 business meeting, as is the usual practice.

"I ask for special consideration so that we can go ahead and order the gear and equipment in anticipation of opening the new station," Howell said. "There is a time element involved."

Interim County Administrator Al Crace recommended approving the request.

"We expect to open the new station in October," he said. "I think this measure will allow us to expedite the opening."

The commission also held a public hearing to discuss Brijesh Patel's request for a retail beer and wine license at his Chevron station at 1603 Philema Road South; heard requests to approve a Performance Partnership Grant for Emergency Management, a supplemental agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation and a low $74,000 bid by Peek Pavement Markings to put up reflective markings on rural roads in the county.

Commission Chairman Ed Duffy recommended that the county's new animal shelter be named the "Fifth Friday Foundation Animal Shelter" in honor of the foundation founded by Dr. Phillip Hajek that donated $215,606.48 to the construction of the facility.

Crace said he and Alexander had been working with project architects to find "new alternatives to stay on budget" in the design and building of the county's proposed library/conference center off U.S. 82.

"I'm optimistic we're moving in the right direction with a goal of getting this project under construction in the next six or seven months," he said.