Business owners protest sign ordinance restrictions

FLINT TWP. — A group of business owners appealed to the township board Monday night to reconsider a sign ordinance amendment passed in June that limits how often their outdoor computerized digital signs can change its display.

Group spokesman, Bill Lafay, owner of Karen’s Carpetmax, 3106 Linden Rd., pleaded financial hardship for business owners who have invested thousands of dollars in the signs prior to the ordinance change. They are being issued warning citations for non-compliance but so far have not been fined.

“It is hard for me to understand how I could get a permit three months ago and then I have been cited already,’’ said Lafay, who received his first warning last week.

Restrictions on the signs display eliminates 90 percent of its capabilities and defeats its purpose which is a proven medium for attracting customers, Lafay said. The signs have limitless capabilities including animation and hundreds of graphics and color changes per second.

Lafay said cars driving by have been timed at five seconds on a slow traffic day but the ordinance restricts sign changes to every six secondsanditmustbeaastatic message using no special effects.

If he had known he would not be allowed to use his sign to its full potential, Lafay said he could have purchased a cheaper one for onethird of the cost which can range between $20,000 to $70,000.

Lafay said he is aware of about 14 business owners affected by the ordinance change. What bothers them most is not being notified about the public hearing concerning the sign ordinance amendment.

In 26 years of doing business in the township, Lafay said he has never before had to come before the board with problems.

Affected business owners are requesting a meeting with township officials to “put in our two cents worth’’ and try to reach a resolution that works for all concerned.

Township Supervisor Karyn Miller agreed to set up a meeting after the holidays to discuss solutions.

She said the language in the ordinance amendment was taken directly from a state ordinance. It does not prohibit the signs but limits how often the display can change.

“When I look at other communities around us, they don’t permit those signs at all,’’ she said.

Lafay said the signs are allowed in the city of Flint.

Also with the group was Larry Kassel, a dentist, who said he has been in business near Linden and Calkins Road for 30 years and has had his display sign for two years. He said it should have been “grandfathered’ exempt under the new ordinance.

Kassel said he has received many compliments on his sign which displays the time of day, temperature, seasonal greetings as well as info about his services and products.

Trustee George Menoutes, a retired pharmacist, said the board should “grandfather’’ in the existing signs.

“I don’t think people understand the retail business and what the little businessman is going through today to survive,’’ Menoutes said, pointing out that Lafay and others followed proper procedure to get a permit for their sign including showing pictures of it and explaining its operation.

Lafay stressed that he is happy with the township’s cooperative response to their complaint and he is optimistic about a satisfactory resolution.

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