Billboard Ordinance Passes with Compromise

The supervisors heard plenty about the proposed sign ordinance. Advertisers complained it was too strict and would hurt their business. "While we agree in principal what the board is trying to do I still contend that some of the items you have proposed are extremely restrictive if not prohibitive," says Leslie Dane of Lamar Advertising.  Dare Hawkins of Hawk Media says, "When you start changing the board's sizes to 300 square feet you give one company an absolute monopoly."

Some citizens were more concerned about appearance, rather than profit. "I remember it as a child as a beautiful place, a humble place, a kind place and we're losing some of that through this tacky billboards and signs and easements that are not really, I feel, legal," says Long Beach resident Joanna Hudson. "I think planning is very important, appearance is very important and balance is very important and I feel this ordinance shows that balance and is a definite positive step in the right direction for smart growth and positive growth here in Harrison County," says District 5 Supervisor Connie Rockco.

The vote was three to two against the ordinance. Opposing supervisors say they couldn't accept restricting billboards on I-10 and Highway 49. "And not putting property owners in a bad position and being fair, that's what I'm about," says District 4 Supervisor William Martin. District 2 Supervisor Larry Benefield says, "I think the problem is we have a commercial areas, being I-10 and Highway 49 and I can't live with this particular ordinance. I think those areas outside that, I don't have a bit of problem with."

Benefield asked for an amendment. Instead of restrictions of 30 feet in height, 300 square feet and  a 75 feet setback, the compromise allows billboards only on I-10 and Highway 49 to be 50 feet high, 600 square feet with a 50 feet setback.

The board passed the amended version four to one. Rockco was the nay vote, saying she didn't think a compromise was necessary. "I think the compromise will be good but I didn't have to speak my convictions and I thought the original was fair and just," says Rockco.

The supervisors say landowners and advertisers can ask for a variance if they think one is necessary. The outdoor advertisers say they are pleased the board was willing to compromise.

Marcia Hill