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City denies request to rebuild damaged billboard

News Staff Writer

Although Atmore City Council members didn’t take any action on the measure, a second request to rebuild a billboard damaged last year by Hurricane Sally was summarily rejected during the council’s Monday, May 10, meeting.
The billboard in question is located at the intersection of U.S. 31 and 6th Avenue.
Chuck Riley of Bill Salter Signs, who made the initial request in December, told the council he felt like the company was being singled out, that any other business whose property was damaged would be able to rebuild or repair the damage.
“If it was a restaurant, you would have allowed us to fix that,” Riley said. “If a wall had been blown down, windows blown out, I’m sure you would have let us rebuild that. This targets us, specifically billboards, and I think that’s wrong.”
Mayor Jim Staff told Riley the decision came from city codes enforcement officers, not the council.
“We make the ordinances, we don’t enforce them,” the mayor said. “That’s our codes enforcement people that do that.”
Greg Vaughn, one of two city codes enforcement officers, said billboards are an example of “a non-conforming sign” and pointed out that city code specifically speaks to the rebuilding of such signs.
“No off-premises signs shall be changed or altered in any manner that would increase the degree of its non-conformity, its size or prolong its useful life,” Vaughn said, reading from city code. “Replacing the supporting structure shall be considered prolonging its useful life.”
Staff said wording of the code section pretty much settles the matter.
“It’s not a decision for the council; that’s an ordinance already in place,” he said. “Mr. Riley, that’s your answer.”
Riley, most of the steam gone from his argument, pointed out that city officials “have made considerations and ordinance changes in the past,” to which Staff said the council would have to pass a new ordinance in order to meet his request.
“We’re not in a position to change it right now; we have to leave it like it is,” he said.
Vaughn said after the meeting that existing billboards were “grandfathered in” when the ordinance was passed.
In other business, the council, sitting one member short (District 5’s Chris Harrison was out of town on a job-related matter.), unanimously approved the following:

  • the city’s participation in the multi-hazard mitigation plan, which would bring FEMA assistance in the event of a hurricane or other disaster.
  • a resolution approving an ATRIP-II grant for changes to the intersection of Alabama 21 and Poarch Road, near where the community’s new hospital will be located.
  • a resolution designating Civil Southeast as the city’s engineer for EDA grant related to the Coastal Growers peanut shelling plant.
  • the use of Houston Avery Park for a Juneteenth celebration on June 19, from 4-9 p.m.
  • the use of Houston Avery Park for a “Stop Da Violence hood bash,” also on June 19, but from noon until 4 p.m.
  • the use of Tom Byrne Park by McCullough Christian Center, from 4 p.m. until “six-ish” for a June 5 outreach program.
  • the use of Tom Byrne Park on June 24 by Voices for Jesus Ministry for a 5,000-pound food giveaway that will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until all the food is distributed.
  • a proclamation designating the week of May 10-14 as National Small Business Week in the city. (The proclamation is printed on page 4 of this edition.)
  • let bids for 30 Taser units for the city police department.