The Dunwoody City Council voted to defer a final vote on its new sign code at a Sept. 13 meeting. 

Councilmember John Heneghan made the motion, asking to defer the decision for one month to allow a committee who worked on the sign code changes to review the final draft before approval. 

Heneghan said it’s been a long process.

“It started with a committee of citizens and businesses that took the first swipe at this code section,” he said. “There’s been a lot of work that’s been done. I would like to give it back to that committee to have one more review to make sure that they look at it from their perspective.”

Last year, the city created a sign ordinance steering committee to help provide guidance for the new sign code. Throughout 2020 and 2021, the city collected public input from residents and business owners to draft a rewrite of the city’s sign ordinance, according to the city’s website. The Dunwoody Planning Commission reviewed the new sign code twice in April and May of 2021 before passing the issue along to the City Council. 

The sign code draft presented at the meeting states that one of the main purposes of the new sign code is to promote safety for pedestrians and vehicles, making sure signs aren’t a hazard or a distraction. The draft also states that the code will make sure signs are appropriate for different zoning districts throughout the city, and emphasizes making sure the city is aesthetically attractive. 

Planning and Zoning Manager Paul Leonhardt went over some changes to the sign code from a previous draft presented to the council in July. He said since July, the city has had a lawyer review the code, and it should be ready for approval from a legal perspective. 

Under the new code as drafted, subdivisions could now have freestanding signs for residential banners. This change came as a result of council concerns that subdivisions without walls would not be able to have these types of banners. 

The new draft also has language meant to limit the visual impact of electronic message center (EMC) signs, which can function as display signs with LED screens. According to Leonhardt, those signs will have to limit brightness in certain outdoor conditions. For example, the darker it is outside, the more dim the sign will have to be. The new draft also states that the message on the EMC sign has to remain static for at least ten seconds. 

The new draft eliminates large yard signs for homes in the city’s single-dwelling residential districts, and only allows for one yard sign per tenant suite in the city’s commercial districts. 

The new draft also sets up permitting and appeals processes for the sign code. Leonhardt said these processes will be similar to those for other aspects of the city, such as construction permitting. Leonhardt said that the draft would also eliminate two opportunities for variances to the sign code. 

A city spokesperson said that the Community Development department has reached out to the sign code steering committee to see if it can go over the draft in the next week. The sign code is expected to go back before the City Council at its Oct. 11 meeting. 

Residents can read the code draft in its entirety on the city’s website. 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.