Vicksburg votes to limit use of temporary signs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 26, 2002

[02/26/02] City officials voted Monday to limit the use of temporary banners in Vicksburg, hearing objection from only one local business owner.

Under the amendment to the zoning ordinance, temporary signs on public or private property will be permitted by the city for special occasions.

Banners can remain for 30 days for special events and sales or 60 days for grand openings.

Signs showing sales prices or specials will be limited to three times a year. Businesses will also be limited to only one banner when the ordinance goes into effect in about 30 days.

“We’ve been dealing with this sign ordinance for at least eight years that I know of and in the past every time we’ve got to this point we’ve backed down,” said North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, who said that the city should take action this time. Sign ordinances are popular as beautification aids in many cities. Vicksburg has existing laws addressing signs, but officials concede they are rarely enforced.

Donny Clark, representing a Clay Street business, said the new ordinance is “unconstitutional” and “communist.”

“As long as it’s on their property, I think they have a right to put up all the signs they want,” said Clark, owner of Wholesale Import and Liquidation, 2006 Clay St.

Under the city code, new ordinances become law 30 days after being adopted unless a petition with the names of at least one-tenth of qualified voters in the city, about 1,760, is presented to the city. If a petition is presented, a special election is held.

“This issue with signs is a hard issue,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens. “It’s the difficult part of government, but if we want to clean our community we’ve got to address these signs.”

No objections were presented to the zoning board last week during a public hearing on the amendment, although plans to initiate the ban had been delayed after complaints from another local business owner.

After receiving a letter from the city inspection department last month telling him to remove temporary banners from his Washington Street business, Mike Caruthers had said his business depends heavily on the type of banners the amendment will limit. The city reacted by postponing the initial public hearing, saying more information would be gathered.

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

The ordinance also addresses signs used for garage sales or yard sales limiting residents to one per property and requiring the sign be removed the day after the sale. The signs are also limited to being put up no more than three days before the sale.

The use of decorative pennants or balloons will not be affected by the amendment provided the decorative item does not have a commercial message on it.