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City sign ordinance isn't business friendly

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By Deana Epperly-Karem

In May, the La Grange City Council passed an ordinance calling for a number of changes to its sign ordinance. It passed without incident and without residents challenging its intent.After realizing its impact and learning how it was being enforced, the Oldham County Chamber began inquiring about the ordinance and initiated conversations with elected officials. We learned the ordinance affected 90 to 95 percent of our La Grange businesses and this really concerned our public policy committee and board of directors.Over time, the current ordinance requires businesses to shrink the size of their signs, eliminate illumination and invest hundreds and thousands of dollars to replace signage.In addition, the city requires businesses seeking sign permits to get one from both the county planning commission and the city’s mayor’s office. This is not only one more cost of starting a business, but it adds to the layer of bureaucracy businesses face when they want to start a business in Oldham County.During the last few weeks, city council members have engaged chamber of commerce representatives and have acknowledged the ordinance needs more thorough review.Since then, we have worked with the ordinance committee to eliminate the city’s ordinance. If discussions continue and the agreed amendments are passed, businesses will be required to get sign permits from the Oldham County Planning Commission. Businesses will also be asked to follow the Oldham County Sign Ordinance with some various exceptions for ones located in the La Grange city limits.The mayor of La Grange has a beautiful vision for our city. She would like to shorten the signs, eliminate some of the lighting and create a walking community. This is much easier when building a community from scratch, but more complicated when it is affecting businesses with a long standing tradition in La Grange. We hope the mayor doesn’t give up on this vision but will work with the chamber and businesses to find an appropriate solution — together.Finally, public policies affecting businesses and residents are passed every month. Some are good, and some need further reflection. Businesses and residents must pay attention to what is happening in government both at the local, state and federal levels. Elected officials are human and most of the time want to do the right thing. They need us.By law, government is required to post meetings in the newspaper regarding policies and zoning issues that affect residents. Take some time to attend those meetings and learn how you can make a difference. Engage your family and employees in the process of law making. You’ll have a better understanding of the challenges and views facing government, but you’ll also have a chance to have a say in what is affecting you. You might even consider running for office.

The views expressed in this column may not necessarily represent the views of The Oldham Era.