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Dunwoody Council considers changes to sign ordinance

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DUNWOODY, Ga. – The Dunwoody City Council held a public hearing June 14 on sweeping changes to its sign ordinance.

The proposed ordinance changes the way signs are categorized, and further defines sizes and uses for a variety of signs throughout the city, including the size and allowable square footage of signs in residential yards.

A nine-member steering committee and the city’s sign consultant, ZoneCo, has been working for months to draft the ordinance that not only addresses every type of signage in the city, but also reorganizes the way signage is categorized.

“The old sign code was cumbersome to use,” said Paul Leonhardt, Dunwoody Planning and Zoning manager. “The new one is much easier to use. It’s much more graphic and it helps to set up new expectations to the community and will make it easier to enforce the code.”

Sean Suder of ZoneCo presented the highlights of the new ordinance, saying that the old code “was a one-size-fits-all that tried to be all things to all people.”

The new code incorporates modern, more common sign terms and standards, as well as uses defined by the district in which the proposed sign is located, Suder said.

The proposed code also includes bans on:

  • Animated signs, including balloons, air or gas-filled figures and signs that move mechanically
  • Search lights
  • Electronic message signs, with some exceptions
  • Neon signs larger than 3 square feet in total area
  • Signs attached to a tree, curb, utility pole, fence or street sign
  • A roof sign on a building under 40 feet in total height.

The code also sets forth standards for the total allowed area for a commercial sign based on the façade area and limits monument signs to a maximum of 6 feet high and 36 square feet.

It sets the number of signs that can be erected in a residential yard, limiting the square footage to 30 square feet total, regardless of the number of signs in a yard.

The meeting packet included feedback from community members commenting on the proposed statutes, including Jerry Benda, of Chupito’s Azteca Grille on Dunwoody Village Parkway, who asked the city to allow channel lettering on wall and canopy signs within the overlay district.

“The only allowed type of lighting, direct lighting and backlit signs do not provide the visibility required by small businesses in the current competitive business environment,” Benda said.

The new sign ordinance allows direct lighting, internal box lighting, shadow/halo lighting and indirect lighting, but it does not appear to address channel lettering, according to the proposed document.

Nobody spoke on the proposed ordinance at the public hearing. Council members questioned several specifics about the new ordinance for more than an hour, including standards associated with the quasi-institutional uses, which Suder and his committee said they would research.

The ordinance only addresses new signage. All existing signage is grandfathered in, Leonhardt said.

In other action at the June 14 meeting, the council finalized the purchase of 9 acres at 4809 and 4819 Vermack Drive. The purchase will be made by the Georgia Municipal Association and the city will lease the property for a 15-year period at a 2 percent interest rate.

The council also:

  • Heard the results of the city’s annual audit performed by Mauldin & Jenkins, which found no major deficiencies.
  • Issued a proclamation declaring June 14 Janae Profit day, celebrating the accomplishments of the Dunwoody High School track and field athlete, who will attend the University of Virginia in the fall on an athletic scholarship. Profit, a shot put and discus thrower, won the 2019 state championship in shot put and was named a runner up for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year in 2020.
  • Appointed Shane Sevy to serve on the Dunwoody Sustainability Committee.
  • Approved the restoration of funds to several departments that were reduced because of COVID-19-related lags in tax collection.
  • Heard the results of the city’s annual audit performed by Mauldin & Jenkins, which found no major deficiencies.
  • Amended language in Dunwoody’s Alcohol Beverage ordinance for ancillary tasting permits.

Cathy covers local government and community news for the Dunwoody area.

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