January 14, 2014 9:26:17 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Although you might not know it by driving down Highway 45, there has been a ban on billboards in the city since 2000.
A committee formed last month made up of three Columbus councilmen, chief operations officer David Armstrong and city attorney Jeff Turnage is reviewing the law and considering the possibility of lifting the ban to allow billboard advertising in the city limits and charge advertisers fees to generate more revenue.
Discussions are preliminary at this point, as the committee has only met once, Armstrong said, but research on sizes that other area municipalities allow has been done. Meridian and Starkville each limit the height signs can be to 45 feet, while Tupelo allows up to 35-foot boards. Billboards in Tupelo can be 400 square feet in size and 600 square feet in Meridian, but only 288 square feet per sign is allowed in Starkville. Signs must be at least 500 feet apart in Tupelo and Meridian. In Starkville, there must be at least 2,640 feet between billboards.
Armstrong will use that information to draft a proposed ordinance when he meets with Turnage before seeking the committee's input.
"We put the moratorium on there to draft some ordinance with requirements, which we've never done," Armstrong said. "I think probably what will happen is Jeff Turnage and I will get together and come up with a proposal because I want to have something concrete before we bring it to the committee. I think we've got enough to put something together. It's not rocket science."
Councilman Bill Gavin, who was appointed to the group along with colleagues Joseph Mickens and Marty Turner, said if the council had to lift the sign moratorium, he would suggest specified zones where the new code would apply and keep the ban in some city areas.
"In the end, there's pros and cons in lifting it and not lifting it," Gavin said. "I think a lot of it is going to be where those signs go. If we were going to put billboards or jumbotrons up, they could go along the bypass area. We certainly don't want to put them in residential areas or downtown. I don't really want to put any more down (Highway) 45. I'm trying to get away from that. We have to look at where we can create some zones that would be beneficial to all residents of the city if we have to do that."
The ban enacted in 2000 prohibited billboards from that point forward in the city limits. Billboards already in place at that time were grandfathered in.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.