Council will receive a negative recommendation on the red-hot issue, which could be voted on as early as May 13th
Released: Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at 7:49 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 29, 2021, at 6:47 AM
MANDEVILLE — The Mandeville Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously tonight (April 27, 2021) to recommend that the City Council not extend a grace period on electronic signs that was supposed to have expired January 1, 2021.
The commission did not return a recommendation on language in the proposed ordinance that would create a new carveout for electronic signs based on the portion of their structure that is actually signage. The commission also voted to recommend in favor of hiring a consultant to examine current signage codes in general, not just electronic signs.
Proposed Ordinance No. 21-02, introduced at the March 11, 2021, City Council meeting, would amend existing city code adopted in 2015 (sections 10.5.3.11(2) and 10.5.3.11(3) of the Appendix A – Comprehensive Land Use Regulation Ordinance (CLURO)), which outlaws all electronic signs — described in code as “Electronic Message Centers” — starting January 1, 2021. The so-called “amortization period” from 2015 until now was technically a grace period, which allowed businesses who already owned such signs to write off their depreciation before shutting them down. However, a number of those signs are reportedly still in operation.
The City posted a notice on its website in March 2021 that notified the public that enforcement of sign regulations had been “relaxed” as part of its COVID-19 accommodations. The statement reads, “the City will resume enforcement of the sign regulations beginning May 1, 2021.”
According to city code, Appendix A, Division II, Section 10.3.2 (Item 17), an electronic message center is defined as:
“Electronic Message Centers or Digital Signs. An electrically activated, changeable sign with a variable message and/or graphic presentation capability that can be electronically programmed by computer from a remote location or at the sign. Also known as an EMC or digital sign, these signs typically use arrays of LED lights to create an illuminated message.”
This new ordinance, if adopted by the City Council — possibly at the May 13th meeting — would extend that grace period while also creating an exception for signs whose digital components comprise 50% or less of the sign face surface. Those electronic signs would be allowed to continue to operate until January 1, 2022.
There were 11 signs permitted under the grace period which ended January 1st, two of which have been turned off. Five of the 11 are gas station signs. Of the nine remaining, seven would be allowed to continue operating under proposed Ordinance No. 21-02. This means that those seven fit within the 50% carveout in the proposal.
Editor’s Note: The proposed ordinance’s “50%” is referring to area, not dimensions. This means that a six-by-four-foot electric sign (area of 24 square feet) would only have to add a one-foot border or frame to become compliant. The one-foot border would make the outer dimensions eight-by-six feet (area of 48 square feet) making the original sign 50% of the outer sign face. See the illustration below:
Mayor Clay Madden submitted a statement that was entered into the record stating he is against the ordinance.
The Planning & Zoning Commission does not act on legislation. They can only make recommendations to the council on proposed ordinances and other issues.
According to eyewitness reports, a number of the existing electronic signs, which are technically in violation of existing city code, and could be cited by the City starting May 1st, continue to operate.
Below are several examples of electronic message centers contained in the City of Mandeville Planning & Zoning Commission media packet for the April 13, 2021 meeting: