City should reverse sign moratorium

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

To say that public officials in other communities were shocked Natchez was interested in changing its sign ordinance to make it more liberal would not be an understatement.

And to imagine those officials are shaking their heads at us is all too easy.

Communities such as Germantown, Tenn., and Madison enacted ordinances two decades ago, and those communities have seen a boom in development in the years since. No one could argue their sign ordinances were unfriendly to businesses, which have been locating in those communities with little complaint.

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But two weeks ago, Natchez aldermen passed a moratorium &045;&045; one with, curiously, no time limit &045;&045; on the city’s own 10-year-old sign ordinance. Aldermen claimed the current ordinance needed revision to make it more &uot;business-friendly.&uot;

Officials in Madison and Germantown admit it was hard at first to get businesses to see why such an ordinance is important. Eventually, though, all of the businesses complied, even those grandfathered in at the start, and Madison, at least, makes no exceptions to its rules.

But Natchez officials who designed our ordinance in the early 1990s knew all of this. They polled similar communities, compared their sign ordinances and wrote a carefully considered set of rules to help balance business and beautification for our community, which relies on tourism as one of its most important industries.

Aldermen will meet again this Tuesday, and, although the board’s agenda will not be set until Monday, we hope they take up this issue again &045;&045; so they can cancel the moratorium and allow the ordinance to stand.

Voting to suspend the ordinance in the first place was an impetuous decision and must be reversed.