City should work with casino on sign

Published 12:06am Friday, May 16, 2014

Natchez has a sign problem. It has for years and years. But the problem has reared its head again and put the city in a bit of a quandary — enforce the city’s rules or kowtow to a big business.

Magnolia Bluffs Casino managers are upset over the city’s demand that the casino remove a sign atop the public bluff directing patrons to find the establishment tucked at the bottom of Roth Hill Road.

The casino is rightfully upset, though we’d argue the dispute wouldn’t have been necessary if the casino had publicly discussed its signage needs before signing a long-term, $1 million per year lease for the city’s riverfront property.

The casino’s sign, city leaders say, violates the city’s sign ordinance.

Most sign ordinance violations that garner lots of public attention tend to be for garish, overly sized or electronic signs. None of these are the case here.

The sign in question is relatively modest in size and appearance, but apparently is considered an “off-premises” sign, which the sign ordinance prohibits.

As is often the case when government is involved in an otherwise common-sense matter, the discussion has become complex.

Tuesday, the mayor voted against the casino’s sign by breaking a tie vote of the aldermen.

Could this be resolved simply by having the city lease a small patch of land on top of the bluff on an annual basis, perhaps for the nominal fee of $1?

By keeping the term of the lease short, the city could force the casino to remove the sign later if it were deemed too distractive. The move would also be a good gesture on the city’s part to help a business that, while making money on its own, also happens to be one of the biggest contributors to the city coffers.