Proposed changes to Hinesville’s ordinance on digital signs could affect the size, location and brightness of the billboards.
During a work session Tuesday, council members discussed proposed changes to rules for “changeable electronic variable message signs.”
Gabriele Hartage and Sonny Timmerman with Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, along with Steve Welborn, director of inspections, and sign committee members Eric Thomas, Yvonne Woods and Tom Pollock, responded to questions from Mayor Jim Thomas, City Manager Billy Edwards and councilmembers Charles Frasier, David Anderson and Jason Floyd.
“What we’re trying to do is regulate these types of signs, which have become very popular,” Hartage said.
The first proposed change would restrict the size of new signs to 50 square feet or no more than 25 percent of the “existing allowable signable area.” It also limits one digital sign “per parcel.”
“Does that mean someone could put up another (digital) sign right across the street?” Anderson asked. “We need something to prevent a cluster of these signs.”
Timmerman said the committee tried not to be too restrictive and reminded councilmembers they could simply ban electronic signs. The mayor said the committee did propose banning digital signs from the downtown area, but warned against being too restrictive.
“(Too many) of these signs may make the city aesthetically unattractive, but remember, the ordinance only limits the size of the lighted portion of the sign. Personally, I’m more concerned with the illumination of the sign. Where did we get the 12 foot-candle standard for illumination? Is that a (Georgia Department of Transportation) standard?”
He said he thought street lights were limited to 5 foot-candle and wondered why digital signs would be allowed to be so much brighter. He said the city needs equipment to test the signs to ensure they don’t exceed this illumination standard.
Eric Thomas said he often checks the luminosity of digital signs as an industrial hygienist on Fort Stewart.
“What are the procedures if a sign exceeds illumination standards?” Floyd asked.
Welborn said the signs’ brightness is supposed to be adjustable. Mayor Thomas said the DOT should enforce standards to prevent signs from becoming safety hazards.
“What we don’t want to do is make our standards more restrictive than the state,” he said. “You can’t deny one person the right to set up a sign then allow another. You’ll get into legal problems if you do that.”
Frasier said he was a concerned about signs’ messages as well as the brightness, but conceded it was better to restrict than to ban digital signs.
The changes would also set a 200-foot limit from “any residence on residentially zoned property.” Edward took issue with the word residence, noting the limit could hurt property values around signs.
The mayor agreed, adding that it could also adversely impact property in mixed-use areas. The officials recommended seeking legal advice about changing the wording from “residence” to “property line.”
The proposed changes with new wording regarding residential areas will be presented at next week’s council meeting. There currently is a moratorium on new digital signs.