MOULTRIE -- The Moultrie Property, Planning and Growth Committee met Tuesday to discuss the new sign ordinance, which has met some opposition with local business owners lately.

The committee, consisting of council members George Walker, Cecil Barber and Wayne Cooper, agreed to get together representatives from the business community and form an advisory committee to study the ordinance. The advisory committee, which could meet as soon as the end of next week, would ideally consist of representatives from car dealerships, mobile home dealers and convenience stores -- the types of businesses most affected by the ordinance, according to City Manager Tony Rojas. Members of the chamber of commerce and the chamber's past presidents association would also be invited to join the group.

"We're hoping that by reviewing the ordinance we might educate the business people and the general public about what we're studying and proposing... Then whatever (the committee) recommends, we would recommend those as modifications to the ordinance and begin the process to modify the ordinance," Rojas said.

From that point, the public would have the opportunity through public hearings to give their opinions, he said.

State law regulates that the city go through a public hearing process when any change is proposed in a zoning ordinance. So the issue may not be resolved for eight to 10 more weeks, he said.

Rojas said the city invites input through the public process, but on this particular issue input came in the form of complaints after the fact.

The city doesn't appear to be willing to throw out the revised ordinance entirely.

"If you have a knee-jerk reaction to throw out the entire ordinance, then the public would expect that in every case. And in some cases, it may be in the greater good of the entire community that even if a significant portion may be opposed to it, it may still be to the greater benefit," Rojas said.

"The ordinance has a lot more in it than provisions that you can't fly flags and banners. That's just one portion," he said. "I think there is a balance between allowing businesses to advertise and market their business and having an attractive, clean community."

In the future the city will form advisory committees and involve them in ordinance modifications if the issues warrants such input, he said.

As it stands, any action regarding enforcement of the current ordinance is frozen. The 12 cases of ordinance violations will be continued in municipal court, Rojas said.

"It may take a lengthy period of time. We certainly wouldn't be in this predicament if we had businesses and the public come forward and give us input when we began to adopt the ordinance," he said.

By Lori Glenn

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