“Unfortunately, our code doesn’t address these in a straightforward way,” Jeff Watkins, the county’s zoning director, said to the commission at a work session Tuesday.
Watkins said a Bells Ferry Road business had recently applied for and been granted a variance from the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals to have an electronic sign, so it is time for the county to address the signs.
“Let’s put this in the code and call it what it is,” he said.
The signs, featuring LED, LCD or plasma lighting, can be changed via computer and can be programmed to change at any interval, and to display moving words or pictures.
Watkins suggested that commissioners consider approving a sign ordinance similar to the one used in Cobb County for electronic signs.
Cherokee County’s present sign ordinance doesn’t allow for “flashing signs,” defined as signs that change more often than once every 24 hours, as electronic signs can be programmed to do.
“They have motion to them. That’s what people like about them, as far as people who have the signs,” Watkins said, adding that electronic signs are excluded from the definition of “flashing signs” in Cobb County’s ordinance.
Watkins said Cobb County’s ordinance for electronic signs allows static messages only, and these messages can change every 20 seconds.
Commissioners Jason Nelms and Harry Johnston both said Cherokee County’s ordinance needs to regulate how frequently the signs’ displays can change.
“It needs to not be often enough that it’s likely to change while someone’s looking at it,” Johnston said.
The signs are not allowed in residential zones in Cobb County, but Watkins said some Cherokee County businesses like schools, daycares and churches are located in residential zones and may want electronic signs.
Cobb’s ordinance allows a total of 32 square feet of electronic area on a sign and allows for double-faced signs.
Watkins said he could put together a proposed ordinance for commissioners to review at their next meeting.
Nelms said the one sign on Bells Ferry Road doesn’t seem obtrusive to him, but he is worried about the county being covered with the signs.
“If there’s one every 120 feet, that would obscure the landscape,” he said, adding that he would like to see the ordinance address how close together one electronic sign can be placed to another electronic sign.
Commissioner Brian Poole said the commission should help business owners by allowing electronic signs.
“We almost surely have to allow them in some form. This is a technology that is changing every day,” he said.
In other sign issues, Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said he has heard numerous citizens complain about “human signs,” people hired to hold advertising signs near roadways.
Commissioner Ray Gunnin said the county also needs to look at its regulations for temporary banners.