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Rant: Does New Albany need a sign ordinance at all?

new sign ordinance It has been three years since the City of New Albany told the veterinarians opearting a clinic on Hwy 30 West that they could not replace this broken down, homemade sign with a brand new, professionally built sign, in which the vets had invested over $20,000. In July 2015, the doctors asked for a variance from the obsolete 2006 sign ordinance that seemed to bar the high-tech sign they'd bought. However, the Board of Aldermen refused to grant the varianace. The above photo was taken Monday June 4, 2018. Although the board is considering adopting an extensively revised sign ordinance, nothing in the new ordinance assures that enforcement and sound judgement regarding signs will be any better in the future.

According to its agenda, the New Albany Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing tomorrow evening, June 5, 2018, for its proposed new sign ordinance. Anyone with comments on the new rules governing signs in New Albany will be able to speak briefly.

We have ranted so much during the last three years about the badly flawed 2006 sign ordinance and its unfair enforcement that we are tired of it. We expect the same is true of those thousands of people who visit NAnewsweb.com every month.

Alderwoman Amy Livingston took on the work of re-writing the sign ordinance early in her term. After many hours of often frustrating work by Livingston, City Attorney Regan Russell, Code Enforcement Office Eric Thomas and others, the proposed new ordinance is, we believe, a significant improvement over the messy and unintelligible 2006 sign ordinance. We don’t agree with all of it, but believe it’s better than the old jumble of words.

Will the new sign ordinance smooth the path for new business?

As to words, the proposed new New Albany sign ordinance is 10,200 words long. The U.S. Constitution with all 27 amendments and all the signatures is only 7,591 words. That’s 34 percent fewer words than our ordinance for signs only. Is the new sign ordinance one-third better as a document, as law than the venerable old Constitution? Time will tell.

As troublesome as it has been as a flawed written document, most of the problems the city has had with the old 2006 sign ordinance have been due to the haphazard, bumbling, unfair way the city board and its designees have enforced it. With good reason, the old ordinance and its wacky enforcement have been perceived by many as hostile to business and to common sense. Will the city do a better job of enforcing the new sign ordinance? Time will tell.

Furthermore, the greatest issue with the sign ordinance — including the polished new draft ordinance — is the question, “Why do we have a sign ordinance at all?”

What problems will the new sign ordinance actually solve?

In justifying the sign ordinance, some have pointed to problems they perceived years ago with the “flashing arrow” signs: tacky little trailers with flashing lights that a very few businesses parked immediately next to the street pavement to hawk their wares. Were the flashing arrow signs a distraction, a potential hazard to safe driving? Probably so.  But it should have been a problem easily dealt with under the same class of regulations that set speed limits and define illegal parking.

Did anyone ever show that there is an actual NEED for a SIGN ORDINANCE in the first place? Nope. We haven’t found anyone who could point to any actual problem with having no sign ordinance — except for the petty flashing arrow complaint. Can any one of the city’s elected officials cite any instance in which signs were actually a problem? If so, we’d like to hear it.

On the other hand, the sign ordinance, itself, and its uneven enforcement have caused no end of problems. We have no reason to believe those problems will be relieved by the “new and improved” ordinance. Therefore, no reason to expect a lessened perception of hostility to new businesses in New Albany.

Why was a sign ordinance passed in the first place? It had nothing to do with need. It had to do with the desire of a handful of well-intentioned people to impose their own aesthetic vision of what New Albany and its businesses should look like.

The whole idea of a sign ordinance is another instance of a solution looking for a problem.

Might the city board consider simply repealing the 2006 ordinance and not replacing it?

To see the newest New Albany sign ordinance’s “near final” draft: New New Albany sign ordinance, near-final draft, 1JUN2018

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