Spanish Fort approves sign ordinance


SPANISH FORT – Changes in sign regulations are planned in Spanish Fort under a plan being considered by the City Council.

The council will hold a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 18, on a new sign ordinance. The ordinance includes more restrictions on signs in residential and commercial areas, David Conner, city attorney, said. He said one change is the size and height of commercial signs in most areas of the city.

“You are moving under this ordinance to ground-mounted signs as opposed to signs that are allowed off the ground. This is similar to what’s been used at the Eastern Shore Center with great success,” Conner told council members on Jan. 3.

Conner said that the current sign ordinance allows commercial signs to be 16 feet high and 100 square feet in size. Under the new regulations, the maximum height will be 8 feet and the sign cannot be more than 60 square feet in size.

The ordinance will also restrict some signs in residential areas.

Homeowners can place signs on their property, but restrictions do not allow commercial signs, except for a sign when the house is being sold, and set a limit on political signs during campaigns. Residents are restricted to one sign for each candidate or issue, Conner said.

“The purpose of this is to allow for people to have temporary signs on their property, when needed, in residential areas, but we also expect people to be good neighbors and it’s an attempt to try to regulate that, so it’s not abused,” Conner said.

Flags will be allowed under the ordinance, but the height of the flagpole will be limited to the top of the building on the property up to a maximum of 25 feet in residential areas. The size of the flag must also be no more than 15 square feet.

In commercial areas, one flag is allowed for each 25 feet of property on the street right of way. No more than three flags are allowed on each site. The flags cannot be more than 24 square feet in size and the flag poles must be no taller than the building or 50 feet, whichever is less, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance bans signs that might distract drivers, such as any flashing, moving, changing signs, balloons, posters, pennants, ribbons or streamers, Conner said.

Digital signs are also prohibited except in commercial overlay district.

In one overlay district on the west end of the Mobile Bay Causeway, digital signs will be allowed if the notices are no larger than 60 square feet. The notices can also be changed no more than four times each day. Conner said the Causeway exception will allow restaurants to advertise daily specials and is being allowed as a test to see if the exemption can be expanded to other commercial areas.

He said larger signs will also be allowed in the Causeway overlay district.

Other overlay districts with some sign exemptions include the eastern part of the Causeway and commercial areas on Alabama 181 near Interstate 10.

The ban on commercial signs in residential areas could affect some businesses working in neighborhoods, city officials said.

Companies doing contractor work, such as installing or repairing roofs, would not be allowed to place signs in yards, Mayor Mike McMillan said.

“That’s probably one of our biggest offenders,” McMillan said. “More times than not, that’s the one you’re going to see and that will take an educational process, probably something we need to talk to them during the permitting time, when they’re getting the permits to put the roof on.”