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Planners see signs of trouble
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Hinesville’s sign ordinance raised concerns for a local business owner and the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission at their meeting Tuesday.

Mary Hancock, of GeoVista Credit Union, filed an application on behalf of the credit union to rezone the property from office-institutional, O-I, to general commercial district, C-2, at the intersection of Link Street and Oglethorpe Highway. The credit union is buildiong a new office at the site and wants to have a larger sign than what the current zoning permits. Under O-I, signs can only be 6 square feet. Under C-2, the sign can be 10 percent of the building front and allows a larger free-standing sign close to the road.

Dr. John P Johnson, the owner of Oglethorpe Family Dental P.C., next to GeoVista, was concerned that the rezoning will allow GeoVista to have a large free-standing sign that will block his sign. Johnson’s sign is 6-feet-by-6-feet. The maximum amount for a free-standing sign under C-2 is 200 square feet, said Gabriele Hartage, LCPC zoning administrator. Johnson asked, if he wanted a bigger sign, would he have to rezone his property. LCPC Executive Director Jeff Ricketson said yes.

Jonathan Johnson, Dr. Johnson’s son who works at the dental office, asked if GeoVista will be able to build whatever size sign it wants if the rezoning is approved. LCPC Chairman Jack Shuman said the commission’s recommendation will go before the Hinesville City Council, and he can express his concerns there.

GeoVista CEO Elaine Tuten said her main concern is the signs for the tower on top of the building. Those are the ones she wants customers to see because they are higher up.

"The tower has a couple of panels there, and we have intended to put a sign of the GeoVista logo there," Tuten said. "The signs aren’t on the wall, but on a glass wall on the tower."

When asked about the design of a free-standing sign, Tuten said the credit union has not had it designed yet and GeoVista has no intentions for the sign to be 200 square feet.

"Once it’s rezoned, there’s nothing stopping you from going larger … and that would be his concern," Shuman said.

Cynthia Johnson, Dr. Johnson’s wife, asked about the location of the sign.

Hancock said it will be placed close to where a current, temporary sign is located.

LCPC Assistant Vice Chairwoman Lynn Pace said property owners should not have to rezone every time they want a bigger sign. Shuman mentioned that the LCPC asked Hinesville to revisit its sign ordinance months ago.

LCPC Vice Chairman Timothy Byler suggested that Oglethorpe Highway be designated as an overlay district with certain conditions for signs, no matter how the properties are zoned, to stop rezoning petitions just for larger signs. He said an overlay district could bring consistency to the highway.

Planning Commissioner Marshall Kennemer said he believes GeoVista will work with Johnson.

Commissioner Phil Odom moved for a motion to recommend approval with Ricketson informing the city that there are issues concerning its sign ordinance, specifically on Oglethorpe Highway. The motion was unanimously recommended for approval.

Home awning dispute

Commissioners recommended disapproval for a variance request to allow for an awning to "encroach by 4 feet into the required 10 feet side yard setback," according to an LCPC presentation.

Clovia Ferguson’s residence, along Desert Shield Street, is 15 feet from the property line of her neighbor. Her awning is very close to the property line, but she is only allowed an awning that is 5 feet. She requested to reduce the depth of the awning to 9 feet — still 4 feet over the requirement.

Ferguson is a disabled veteran. She said that a 5-foot awning is not enough space for her to maneuver her walker outside. Ferguson also has post-traumatic stress disorder and does not feel comfortable sitting on the front porch. Her doctor recommended that she sit outside more for sunlight because of her medical condition

Byler said he used to live in the same subdivision and that the ordinance is in place for the fire department to go in between houses.

The ordinance makes exceptions to grant the variance if the property has a peculiar shape, size and area — not if the homeowner has a personal hardship, Hartage said.

Pace made a motion to recommend disproval, but and added she did not like having to do so.

In another matter, commissioners recommended approval for Patricia Jackson’s petition to rezone 1.53 acres from single-two family dwelling, R-4, to C-2, at 103 Ralph Quaterman Drive. The building on the property used to be a daycare facility. Jackson wants to use half the building for vintage retail and novelties, and the remaining part as storage and office retail in the future.

The final plat for Griffin Park phase 7-B with 27 lots was approved for recommendation.

All of these petitions are expected to go before City Council May 5.

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