Orange Beach has been talking to business owners about noncompliant digital signs around the city that are violating the city’s ordinance on message-changing intervals.
“It’s just a matter of going by each business and trying to correct them and making sure they’re aware of all the requirements for our sign ordinance,” Code Enforcement Officer Chuck Smith said. “We’re just trying to bring everyone back in compliance with the ordinance. We’ll go and check each sign and then we’ll notify the owners and let them know what’s out of compliance, and they need to comply.”
Signs in the town are supposed to change no quicker than every 15 seconds. Those include the city’s own signs at City Hall and one at the Sportsplex entrance, both of which change messaging every six seconds. A random look around town at eight to 10 signs found none complying with the 15-second rule and most were changing every six seconds.
Richard Schwartz of the iconic Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar said his business, like many others in town, programmed his sign to six seconds when the city did.
“We’re pretty much doing the same thing the city’s done in all their places,” Schwartz said. “But we can live with whatever the city asks us to do. I just wish in my heart of hearts if the city asked us to do something it would seem reasonable that the city would do the same thing.”
Smith said the city gets a pass because it is putting out vital public information and not selling anything. There is nothing in the ordinance that specifically exempts the city’s signs.
“Any kind of government or municipal information that needs to be out there,” Smith said, “… we have a lot of things that need to be put on our information boards.”
City Planner Andy Bauer of Gulf Shores, where sign rules call for 10-second intervals on messages, said there’s no pass for the city’s own signs.
Foley Planner Miriam Boutwell said her city had to apply for permission to put a digital sign in front of City Hall. Foley’s ordinance requires 10-second intervals between messages.
In Daphne the interval is 30 seconds and the city currently has no operating digital signs. Fairhope’s ordinance doesn’t allow signs that flash or illuminate intermittently, revolve or have animation. But time and temperature signs are OK.
Smith said the intervals are required to keep from distracting drivers on the city’s streets. Digital signs are mainly on the two main east-west roads in the city, Canal Road and the beach road or State Route 182.
“They wanted to avoid the ‘Vegas’ or ‘canyon’ effect,” Smith said. “For example, if you have five to eight digital signs within a few hundred yards distance of each other on both sides of the road and they’re changing every five seconds, they become distracting and a driver safety concern.”
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