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Lexington neighbors want sign of belonging
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Lexington subdivision spokesperson Eric Thomas sifts through nearly two years worth of correspondence between himself and Hinesville city officials. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington
Sorting through nearly two years of letters and email, Hinesville resident Eric Thomas cannot hide his dissatisfaction with city officials concerning one issue — an entryway sign for his subdivision.“This is probably the first letter I sent to Mayor (Tom) Ratcliffe, writing to him about the sign,” the Lexington subdivision homeowner said, pointing to a letter dated October 2005. “And this was when I stated to him that this subdivision was nearing its completion. We had one house to go before we would be completed out here.”Thomas, the subdivision’s designated spokesperson, said developer Claude Dryden promised homeowners an entrance sign would be constructed at the front of the housing community, just off Airport Road, upon completion of the final house. But a provision in Hinesville’s sign ordinance that prohibited placing any type of sign in a city right-of-way put a snag in the plan. “I went in and looked at the definitions and everything we have to do in order to have a sign and the type of sign this ordinance states,” Thomas said. “But this new ordinance will not allow us to put the sign where we originally were supposed to have the sign.”Fed up with city politics and backed by neighbors who believe the lack of a subdivision sign cheapens the neighborhood, the spokesman has been locked in a fight with Hinesville officials.The group wants to have Lexington grandfathered in under the previous ordinance that would allow a sign to be erected in the spot desired by homeowners. “We should be grandfathered in because this city ordinance went into place in 2005 as we were being completed,” Thomas said. “If other people, other subdivisions and other organizations can be grandfathered, we can be grandfathered into this, too,” he said. But Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said Lexington residents do not have a case for grandfathering.“The sign ordinance went through a very thorough and comprehensive rewriting ... that was adopted and went into affect in November 2001,” he said, rebutting Thomas’ claim the ordidivision was being completed. “The preliminary plat for Lexington subdivision was not approved until sometime in 2003. The sign ordinance was changed a year and a half prior to Lexington even being approved.”Councilman Jack Shuman, who represents the subdivision, said designs for Lexington never included an entrance sign.“There was no drawing on the plat to put a sign there,” he said. “This is something that’s between the homeowners and the developer. It really has nothing to do with the city council, the mayor or anybody else.”Both Edwards and Shuman worked with Thomas and other residents in October 2006 as part of a task force to try to resolve the subdivision’s entrance sign woes and create recommendations for the sign ordinance to avoid problems with future subdivisions.The 11-person committee unanimously agreed on seven new sign guidelines, which included placing entry signs on the first lots of a subdivision and requiring developers to incorporate entryway signs in the preliminary and final designs. The guidelines were recently approved and adopted by the Hinesville City Council.In order for the city to apply the new requirements to Lexington’s situation, officials agreed to allow signs to be constructed on the first two lots of the subdivision, recognizing the structures would be placed on drainage easements.“Ordinarily, we would not allow a structure to be placed on an easement, but we were acknowledging that we were trying to fix something,” Edwards said. When only one homeowner agreed to allow the sign to be constructed in her yard, the arrangement fell through, however. Many residents said they were against the idea of having signs placed on easements anyway, especially with the city relinquishing all financial responsibilities in the event of a pipe break or needing to remove the sign for other reasons.With an apparent breakdown in communication between Hinesville officials and Lexington residents during the past few months, it does not appear as though an entrance sign for the subdivision is coming any time soon.Residents recently gathered at the subdivision’s entryway to plea for a viable resolution from the city council. Most residents shared the sentiment of Steve Pilant. “They have to remember this is an election year,” he said. “If we can’t get what we want from our elected officials, what else do we have to do but replace them?”Shuman said he was well aware of the discontent felt by Lexington residents, but reiterated there is nothing more that can be done at the present time.“I have worked with this subdivision trying to get this problem solved more than I’ve worked with any other subdivision in the last four years,” the councilman said. “I know they’re upset with me and I’m sorry, but what they want is not possible.”Comments from developer Claude Dryden were unavailable before our press time.
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