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."
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, April 17, 2014:
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.