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Casino signage removed by city officials

NATCHEZ — Even paying the City of Natchez more than $1 million a year in rent apparently won’t buy you any leniency when it comes to city law.

The city removed illegal signs Friday placed at the top of Roth Hill Road by Magnolia Bluffs Casino that the casino president contends are necessary to let people know the casino’s location.

City Planner Frankie Legaux said she told Casino President Kevin Preston to remove the signs Monday, but the signs remained on the corner of Roth Hill Road and Broadway Street until city code enforcement officer Anita Smith removed them Friday.

“We contacted them as a courtesy, but they wouldn’t remove them,” Smith said. “You can’t just put up a sign because you want to put up a sign; you have to come to (the) planning (department), and we’ll take you through the process.”

The banner signs, Legaux said, require a permit, which the casino did not obtain, and must meet certain dimension requirements. The signs also must not be displayed for more than 15 days.

Preston said he did not believe other businesses with similar signs downtown had permits.

“We set them up simply to direct people to where the casino is,” he said. “We’ve been inundated with calls from people who will say, ‘OK, we’re here at the Grand Hotel, where are you located?’”

The casino, Preston said, will begin to work with the city on installing a permitted sign at the top of Roth Hill Road to direct patrons to the bottom of the hill where the casino is located.

“It’s a little unfortunate when you’ve got a company like ours contributing a significant amount of investment to the community to be having to do these kinds of things to direct people to the casino,” he said.

Mayor Butch Brown said he noticed the signs before he left town for a trip last week and determined he would handle it when he gets back to the office Monday. He said he received calls Friday and had heard Preston was upset that the city would not allow the signs

“I’m a little disturbed by some of the comments that have been attributed to Kevin Preston, who says we owe it to him to allow signage for the casino because of the amount of money they will be putting into the city,” he said.

Rules are rules, Brown said.

“We do have laws and ordinances in place, and we will enforce those until they are changed,” he said.

Preston said he has a meeting set up with Brown Monday to discuss the sign.

“Look, we’re easy,” he said. “We just want to make sure people aren’t confused; they get frustrated because they don’t know where we’re located. If it needs to be a historic-looking sign like the one we’ve got down on the bottom of the hill, OK. We just need some direction.”