City reverses on order to remove signs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Mike Caruthers, owner of Caruthers Marine on Washington Street, holds one of the signs city officials asked him to take off the fence surrounding his business.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[01/09/02]After forcing one business to remove signs from its fence, Vicksburg officials have slowed action to impose a ban on banners in Vicksburg.

Mike Caruthers of Caruthers Marine at 3315 Washington St. said Tuesday he could not understand what was wrong with the signs strapped to his fence at the boat dealership but city building inspectors said they had to come down.

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“I understand them trying to beautify the city, but I’ve still got to make my sales and pay my taxes like they want me to,” Caruthers said.

The notice was put on the door of his family’s business Monday, Caruthers said, and he removed the three signs two vinyl banners and one metal sign from a fence that encloses several boats. The city’s notice said he had one day to remove the signs or face a $100 fine per day until they were taken down.

Vicksburg’s existing code makes it illegal to put signs on a fence, but does not address temporary banners. Also, the section that refers to signs on fences does not say it includes fences on private property.

City Planner Ronnie Bounds said the section does not apply to private property and that he phoned Caruthers to apologize for what he said was a mistake.

However, a proposed ordinance under study for at least four years would eliminate most temporary signs, including two of the banners on the Caruthers’ fence.

In fact, a public hearing had been scheduled for Thursday on the change, but it was delayed 30 days after officials received the complaints from Caruthers and other local business owners.

Bounds said the delay will allow the city to take a second look at rules on how and where signs can be displayed.

“We want the public to help us to draft a workable ordinance,” Bounds said.

Caruthers said that if a ban is adopted on temporary signs it would cut into his business and others that operate on seasonal basis

“Probably 35 to 40 percent of my business is from these signs,” he said. “I need them to make people turn their heads and look at us, just like a car dealership.”

Mayor Laurence Leyens has said that ridding Vicksburg of certain types of signs would help clean up the city’s appearance. He said that although it has been delayed, he still wants to pass the new ordinance.

“I just wanted to put an end to the banners flapping in the wind all over town,” Leyens said.

Among signs that could be made illegal under the proposed ordinance are portable signs, signs placed on wooden stakes and banners not made of weather-proof material. Real estate signs and signs for construction sites or developments would still be allowed.

It is already illegal to place signs on utility poles, in public rights of way or anywhere that obstructs traffic and city inspectors have been given marching orders to strictly enforce the rules already on the books.

“Anything we do is going to seem drastic because we haven’t been enforcing the sign ordinances,” Bounds said.

The new proposal would also limit the amount of time and how often a business can use temporary banners for sales or other special events. Certain exceptions will be written into the code, but will require approval from the city.

“It’s better to delay it and have it right,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

The next date for the zoning board to meet and possibly hold a public hearing concerning the proposal is Feb. 14.