By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

The Sandy Springs Board of Zoning Appeals put down Inserection’s privilege to flash a neon sign on the side of its building Nov. 13.

On a 5-0 vote, with member Oswald Hill absent, the board upheld the city’s decision to revoke the nonconforming-but-legal status of the sign for shop in the 7800 block of Roswell Road.

The issue was not the content of the store, which sells sex-related items, but the amount of neon on the sign.

Affordable Signs & Neon installed three neon borders on the 168-square-foot sign, which used to have a single neon border on the bottom. Wade Anderson, an attorney representing Affordable Signs & Neon, said Fulton County asked the company to change the reflective background of the sign for safety reasons, though “Inserection had no desire to change the sign.”

He later said Sandy Springs had given that direction.

Nancy Leathers, the city’s director of community development, said the Georgia Department of Transportation and the city have jurisdiction over the road, not Fulton County.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” she said. “There was no permit issued. The sign company is a professional in the area; we expect them to know the rules and to come and ask if they don’t. … We expect the professionals to represent their business and to know their profession. By replacing neon and not having an electrical inspection, we are still not anywhere near compliance.”

Anderson pointed out that the pole sign on the road also has four neon borders and said the city “has said, ‘Aha, by putting that neon on the two sides and top, you are now a nonconforming sign.’ ”

He challenged that conclusion and said the removal of the sign would cause the store a hardship.

Board member Ken Moller said the appeal was not the first of its kind. “We’ve had signs that were modified and then deemed nonconforming or illegal,” he said. “The intent has not been to go out on a witch hunt, but the intent is then to try and gradually bring the city into uniformity with the sign ordinances … which were passed when Sandy Springs became a city. It seems to me like that’s the ultimate goal.”

Anderson said the person filing the appeal, Michael Morrison, wasn’t present because he has issues with governmental bodies. Atlanta-based Focus Entertainment International owns Inserection.

Anderson said Focus Entertainment International and Affordable Signs & Neon would revert to the original sign if they were allowed to keep the nonconforming-but-legal status of the sign.

“If a business is going to lose a nonconforming sign, it should be because they did something trying to get a leg up, trying to make an extra buck,” he said.

Having lost the appeal, Inserection may appeal to Superior Court, apply for a new variance, or bring the sign into conformity and file for an ordinary sign permit, Leathers said.

Anderson said the “matter will be pursued further.”