The Brookhaven City Council deferred an ordinance that would allow for holiday inflatable decorations after deciding that the current language did not adequately balance community desires and safety. 

The need for an amendment to the city’s sign code arose after a resident complained about large inflatable holiday decorations located at the corner of Bailiff Court and Osborne Road. After the complaint, the city began to explore options to address allowing these types of decorations, which are currently included in the prohibited sign section of the code. 

A dispute over inflatable holiday decorations had led to Brookhaven wanting to amend its sign ordinance to allow for these types of decorations.

The ordinance would amend the city’s sign code to allow residents to put up holiday inflatables at most 30 days before a holiday. Residents can leave them up no longer than seven days after the holiday. 

“This is providing additional allowances that don’t currently exist in the sign ordinance,” said Assistant City Manager Patrice Ruffin at a Nov. 30 Brookhaven City Council meeting. “The modifications, however, do not allow for displays in the right of way.” 

According to Ruffin, the “right of way,” which is owned by the city, begins about 10 feet away from the back of the curb on a street, and the policy to not allow signs or displays in the right of way is standard for the city. 

However, multiple council members said they didn’t think that regulation was necessary, and worried it would exclude residents with short front lawns. Councilmember Linley Jones said she didn’t understand the logic of prohibiting inflatables in the right of way.

“They are by nature breakaway in the event of a vehicle going off the road,” she said. “As long as they don’t actually block pedestrian access on a multi-use path or sidewalk, is there any reason that we cannot, as a City Council, approve the very temporary placement of inflatables?”

Mayor John Ernst said the ordinance was not what the city originally intended. He said he was “shocked” the ordinance focused so much on enforcement of the right of way regulation. 

“We don’t want people prosecuted. We don’t want letters going to them telling them they can’t celebrate Christmas and holidays in the right of way, in the grass,” Ernst said. “It’s not what we wanted. It’s very simple. We wanted them to have the ability to do such.”

City Manager Christian Sigman said the right of way regulation has to do with sightline issues. He mentioned that the property with the inflatable decorations that started this endeavor is located on a corner, which could cause visibility problems for drivers. 

“If you’re trying to take a left turn out of Osborne [Road] on that particular property, sightline is an issue, which would be a pedestrian and vehicular issue,” Sigman said. 

Although inflatables are technically not allowed on residential properties at the moment, Ernst asked for a prohibition on enforcement until the council approves the ordinance. The ordinance is expected to go before the council at its Dec. 14 meeting. 

“Don’t touch Christmas inflatables,” Ernst said. “It’s very clear.”

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.