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Officials say ordinance details still in works

A new sign ordinance has several business owners upset in Thomson.

Some of them expressed their feelings during the Thomson City Council meeting last Thursday night.

"Everything is on hold right now," Mayor Kenneth Usry said regarding the sign ordinance as it currently is written.

He explained that banner signs and signs advertising cigarettes have been removed from several businesses in recent days.

"We've got to decide whether we want to relax the ordinance or whatever," Mr. Usry said.

Recently a committee from the Thomson-McDuffie County Chamber of Commerce met with Mr. Usry and City Administrator Don Powers to discuss the matter after they were approached by local business owners upset over the new ordinance. During that meeting, concerns about some of the requirements were addressed as were possible changes to the existing ordinance.

The mayor told the chamber group that he would form a special committee to look into the concerns raised about the sign ordinance. He has received support from Mayor Pro Tem Alton Belton and Councilmen Jaye Jones and Bud Lunceford, who have indicated they would be glad to serve on that committee.

The mayor and council later heard from several business owners during last week's council meeting.

Randy Black, who has owned and operated a business since 1980, recently opened a new business in the city and since has been told he can't put a sign up. Located in a B-2 zone, Mr. Black is prohibited from putting up a temporary sign, except in the window of his business.

The businessman was the first one to address his concerns and frustrations about the new sign ordinance. He told city officials he couldn't understand why he couldn't use a sign post that has stood on his property for the past 42 years.

"Why can't it be grandfathered in," Mr. Black asked.

Mr. Usry explained to Mr. Black and other business owners that city officials currently are attempting to get a legal interpretation pertaining to certain language in the sign ordinance.

"We want to support you, 100 percent," Mr. Usry told Mr. Black and other business owners there.

Mr. Black asked city officials what would happen if all the local businesses left town. He contended such a burden would fall on homeowners whose property taxes would rise significantly.

"We are losing business," Jill Mosely said. She and her mother, Sheila Harmon, own and operate H & H Sign Company. Ms. Mosely said the business generates about 40 percent of their sales from the sale of banners and yard signs.

"We've been here 24 years and can't put a sign up," Ms. Mosely lamented. "This is hurting sign companies and businesses like ours. Everybody thinks we're closed."

Ms. Harmon said she understands that city officials want to make Thomson as attractive a place to live as possible.

"Downtown looks gorgeous," Ms. Harmon said. "The problem now is feeding our families. If we don't have signs, people don't know you're around."



Web posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010













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