It wasn’t an easy decision for Dunwoody City Council to allow temporary signs in the Dunwoody Village Overlay district.
The overlay has more sign restrictions than the rest of the city, and the council has tried to keep temporary signs out of that area. But now, restaurants and businesses are hurting, Mayor Lynn Deutsch said during an Aug. 24 council meeting. It’s an emergency exception geared to alleviate some hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic while the city rewrites its entire sign ordinance, which is set to be ready for review in spring 2021.
The council approved an amendment to the sign ordinance during the meeting to allow two temporary signs for properties with four or more units or business spaces, and one temporary sign for those with fewer units. The Dunwoody Village Overlay is a 165-acre special zoning district at the crossroads of Mount Vernon Road and Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.
The original proposed amendment, recommended for approval by the city Planning Commission on July 7, allowed two signs for all properties regardless of the amount of units, but some council members felt that was too many signs.
Temporary signs can not exceed 24 square feet or be displayed for more than 14 consecutive days for up to six times each year, according to the amendment. Signs have to be individually attached to poles, fences or similar structures.
Banners and temporary signs bigger than 16 square feet would have to have a sign permit, whereas signs considered “standard informational signs” that are smaller than that and would not need a permit.
The new temporary sign amendment for the Dunwoody Village Overlay makes the area more in line with regulations in the rest of the city, according to Richard Hatchcock, a staff member in the city’s Community Development Department.
The city cannot regulate the content of the signs under the U.S. Constitution, so Dunwoody Village business owners can pin up anything — including political messaging — as long as it fits the size and shape restrictions.
“This is a temporary fix as we go through COVID to try to help some of our existing businesses here in Dunwoody,” said Hatchcock during the July 7 Planning Commission meeting.
Resident Joe Hirsch opposed the amendment during the Aug. 10 council meeting after the council’s first read of it, saying the city won’t be able to enforce such restrictions.
“Why change the rules if you’re not even going to enforce the ones on the books?” said Hirsch, who has waged a long-standing battle against signs he says are illegal. “This is a joke, and I expect better from my council.”
During the Aug. 24 council meeting, Hatchcock presented a map that showed what the Dunwoody Village Overlay district would look like if every property had two temporary signs, which was the initial proposal.
After seeing the map, Councilmember John Heneghan had some doubts about the amount of signs allowed.
“I think our businesses need this,” Heneghan said. “But it’s difficult for me to approve it because of the amount of care we’ve taken to limit the amount of signs in the Dunwoody Village area.”
Heneghan initially proposed an amendment to the ordinance to allow only one temporary sign per property, but Councilmember Jim Riticher wasn’t sure that would benefit businesses. That change would mean that the Shops of Dunwoody shopping center on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road would get one sign for all of its businesses.
The council compromised to allow two signs for properties with four or more businesses.