Walgreen's, Brown's Furniture, CVS Pharmacy and Don's Seafood Hut now all broadcast their weekly bargains on flashing digital signs. Other business signs, like the Whataburger sign on North University Avenue, extend more than 100 feet high.
Councilman Bruce Conque says that signs are increasingly becoming bigger and being used more as marketing tools, making drives down commercial districts like Johnston Street less pleasant. "It's a matter of visual pollution," he says.
Conque is one of several city officials pushing for more restrictive regulations on Lafayette business signs ' an issue which has raised vocal opposition from several retailers and sign manufacturers. On Tuesday, Sept. 25, the Lafayette City-Parish Council takes up a new sign ordinance ' now more than two years in the making ' which would impose much tighter restrictions on the signs businesses are allowed to display. The ordinance requires most commercially zoned businesses within the city to construct more visually appealing monument-style signs no taller than 10 feet. Conque says the ordinance would create a look that is less "visually obnoxious."
"The signs will be more aesthetically pleasing, have some uniformity and be at eye-level to drivers," he says. The ordinance also cracks down on the proliferation of digital billboards, imposing an 8-second time limit on their messages and prohibiting the use of animated images. It is modeled after ordinances adopted in communities including Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; Missouri City, Mo. and Mandeville.
As it's currently written, the ordinance requires an amortization period of seven years for all businesses to come into compliance. The provision, more than any, appears to be a sticking point for several businesses. Brother Abdalla, who owns Brother's on the Boulevard clothing store and rents out space to other retailers in The Boulevard shopping center, says city government should not force any business to tear down their existing signs.
"I'm all for the beautification of Lafayette, including signage," Abdalla says. However, he says many businesses don't have the budget to tear down their existing signs and build new ones. Abdalla says he spent more than $30,000 on his On the Boulevard shopping center sign, which he notes is a well-designed monument sign that matches his shopping center. The sign would be illegal under the new ordinance because it is greater than 10 feet tall. He says digital signs like the one up at Don's Seafood Hut, also illegal under the new ordinance, cost approximately $100,000.
"I put up my sign for life," he says. "I can't afford to put up another sign like that. I'm not tearing my sign down. I can't afford to do it. You can't change the rules in the middle of the game."
These concerns have resonated with City-Parish President Joey Durel, a former retailer. (Durel used to own Durel's Pet Shop as well as a local Arby's franchise.) At a meeting last week with concerned business owners, Durel told Abdalla and others that he would veto any sign ordinance that included an amortization clause. "I was relieved to hear that," Abdalla says. "I think it sends a good message. Joey's not going to put that cost on the business owners of Lafayette." Durel did not return a call for comment. Aside from amortization requirement, Abdalla says he supports the ordinance
Because of the intense opposition, council members pushing the ordinance now say they plan to amend it during the Sept. 25 meeting to do away with amortization, effectively grandfathering in all existing signs. Only newly constructed business signs would be required to abide by the new monument signage requirements.
Conque says that while he favors amortization, it's been a negotiating point throughout the process. "I always thought that eventually it could be a deal breaker," he says.
Councilman Rob Stevenson expressed more regret that amortization will likely be abandoned. "I'm not thrilled about it," he says. "But if it's going to be defeated otherwise then I guess we have no choice. Personally, I think that's part of the problem with politics down here ' you can't get anything done because a few vocal people seem to have enough influence to change the outcome of things and that's a shame."
Both Conque and Stevenson point out that the ordinance has several provisions that hopefully will speed up signage transformation. The ordinance would require any sign that is replaced or newly constructed in the city to abide by the new regulations and stipulates that businesses be required to construct new signs in the event that more than 35 percent of their existing sign is damaged. The ordinance also prevents any new businesses from coming into a building and modifying any existing pole signage on the property.
"Signs don't last forever," Stevenson says. "So, they're going to be replaced. It's just going to take longer than I would have liked. It's a start."
"I'm hoping," he adds, "that when people who are grandfathered in see how attractive [monument signs] are and how much people like them better, even without the amortization, they will change their signs eventually of their own accord. If somebody has a really beautiful monument sign with flowers around it, nobody's going to want a sign on top of an old piece of drilling pipe next to it; it's going to look horrible."
The sign ordinance now appears to have the support of a slim majority of the council. But it will still face opposition. Dewey Boudreaux, president of Universal Sign Co., stands to profit from the new sign regulations, but still believes it's a bad ordinance because it is too restrictive. He supports allowing signs to a height of 90 feet. "You've got to draw the line somewhere," he says.
He also contends that the city has consistently failed in enforcing its existing sign regulations. "All the good, honest people are going to suffer because they follow the rules," he says. "Everybody else is not because they're going to get away with [illegal signs]."
Conque says that enforcement is a concern with the new ordinance. The Planning, Zoning and Codes department would be required to monitor for illegal signs. The Board of Zoning Adjustments ' a five-member body appointed by the city-parish president and council ' has the ability to grant variances to any of the signage restrictions. BOZA's rulings can only be appealed in court and not to the city-parish council.
Councilman Chris Williams, who first directed the zoning department to begin working on the new sign ordinance over two years ago, believes the majority of the ordinance's issues have been resolved.
"It is a hot issue," he says, "because whenever you get in people's pocketbooks, particularly government, it brings up a lot of concerns. But I hope at the end of the day when this is on the council table, we would have come to an agreeable medium in terms of what's good for the city and the city's landscape but not punitive to businesses."
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year.
The LPSB races are sure to get heated between now and Nov. 4, and with only 9 available seats, this year's field of 20 candidates will surely be wanting to set themselves apart from the crowd early; they'll get their chance next week, starting Tuesday with the kick-off of a three-day series of candidate forums.
Lawmakers say they've received complaints that waits have spiked, with people being forced to wait in line for more than an hour — and sometimes three hours — to handle routine tasks.
The campaign announced that Rep. Stuart Bishop of District 43 and Nancy Landry, District 31, have thrown their support behind the Naval Academy graduate and entrepreneur in his bid to unseat current Hunter Beasley in District 8.
A Lafayette man with an alleged taste for child porn was busted Thursday evening during a cyber crime sting launched by the Attorney General’s Office.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister says his chief of staff is on temporary leave after being booked with drunken driving.
It was a rare moment in Congress this week as Republicans briefly put aside partisanship in support of President Barack Obama's request to train and arm Syrian rebels, and while a number of Democrats opposed the measure, Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu found herself on the same side of the issue as her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Home Depot breach bigger than Target; Alibaba IPO could be big; Rivers' last project and more national and international news for Friday, September 19, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
The feds converge on your office, seizing records on several employees as part of a pay-for-plea investigation. WWYD? If you’re Mike Harson, you give yourself a $12k raise.
It’s football season and after back-to-back winless weekends for the Saints and the Cajuns many citizens are finding it difficult to be civil much less happy. Well, chew on this.
Considering his repeated stays in the local penal system, David Narcisse Jr. should have known that having a semiautomatic shotgun, even one given to him by a friend, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
A state district judge on Tuesday threw out a last-minute retirement hike lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent, ending a political firestorm over a pension boost passed without public scrutiny on the last day of the legislative session.
The House has passed a bill to increase oversight of veterans' hospitals under construction, following a report that some medical centers take three years longer to complete than estimated and cost an extra $366 million per project.
An obvious follow-up question for any Republican politician who accuses Democrats of being science deniers is one about science, to which Jindal bobbed and weaved like a welterweight champ.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to go along with a proposal City-Parish President Joey Durel made in February’s State of the Parish Address and consolidate taxes for mosquito control and the parish health units into a broader tax program that would also cover animal control.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has dismissed Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the LPSB, yet in his ruling, the federal judge doesn’t bite his tongue in pointing out the "threat" being posed by certain board members.
Of all the political offices being contested throughout Lafayette Parish, the race for Broussard’s top police post has literally become one of the most heated.
A state district judge is deciding whether to issue an injunction against the enforcement of a last-minute retirement hike that lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent.
A new website is up for Louisiana's state government employees and retirees to choose their health insurance plans for next year, a choice they must make by October.
That fact that New Orleans led both games in the final 10 seconds of regulation, and lost each by a field goal or less, is of little solace.