Cobb needs to overhaul its sign ordinances
by Pete Borden
May 27, 2013 10:11 PM | 1453 views | 4 4 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the past three days, this nation has paused to remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion to preserve the freedom and the liberty which we so highly prize. This Memorial Day, more than any in my memory, had a dark shadow hanging over it.

The abuses of power by the government, resulting in the infringement, restriction and destruction of our liberty and freedom, cast a somber tone over the mood of the day.

Major attacks on our rights by our federal government have given each of us pause to consider how highly we really value the freedoms for which so many paid such a high price. The government has historically tried to push its power and it has been the will of the people that has held it in check. It seems the people have not been doing their job. The overzealous government keeps hacking away at our freedom, while we sit complacently, doing nothing.

Make no mistake. The abuse of power and erosion of our rights is alive and well in Cobb County. We have a set of uniquely oppressive, restrictive and unnecessary sign ordinances. If you think I am exaggerating, consider this. If you own a business and you have the name of that business shown on your vehicle, you cannot park that vehicle, on your own parking lot within 52 feet of the center of the road, because that vehicle is considered a sign.

Such things as tents, inflatable devices, banners and streamers are covered in the sign ordinances. The biggest shocker, though, was that American flags cannot be displayed within 52 feet of the center of the road, as I read the ordinance.

I am involved in researching the sign ordinances because a local business came under attack by an “anonymous” person, or group of people, resulting in regular visits from Code Enforcement Officers investigating complaints from “anonymous.” (“Anonymous” is what they call you when you lack the backbone to sign your name.)

Several Saturdays ago this business had a sale in their parking lot. They erected a vinyl tent, about six feet square at the back of the parking lot, along with an inflatable jumping device for youngsters. They put up banners, and moved some merchandise out to the parking lot.

This firm historically displays two American flags, one on a pole and the other in the window of the store. This day they also erected several at the front of the parking lot, adjacent to the sidewalk.

They were cited, or given warnings, for almost everything they did that day, because of a complaint by “anonymous.” They say they were told that the American flags were a violation, though no official notice was given. Presumably the violation was that they were within 52 feet of the center of the road. They were further told that if they put them up again they would be citied.

When I inquired about this I was told that the investigations were conducted within the scope of the code. Re-reading of the code confirmed this. I was also told that they could display the flags, which flies in the face of what they presumably told the business. Three management people, at three different times, told me they had been told they could not display the flags.

It is obviously time these ordinances were reviewed. By what logic, other than possible driver distraction, does the county presume to control what kind of advertising a business does on its own property? The driver distraction argument does not hold water, since electronic signs, with changing messages, are allowed, along the side of the street. How distracting is that?

Ordinances controlling building are necessary, as are zoning ordinances, and I agree that a modicum of control as to size and content may be necessary, with relation to signs/advertising, but when such control infringes upon the rights of an owner to use and control his own property, it becomes oppressive and unacceptable.

The same is true of any law that prohibits displaying any number of American flags anywhere on one’s property, at any time, if, indeed, there is such an ordinance.

I have already communicated my concerns to County Commissioner Bob Ott. I am requesting that he head an initiative to review and revise the excessively restrictive sign ordinances. I strongly suggest that residents and particularly business owners obtain a copy and read these ordinances, then judge for themselves.

Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor in east Cobb.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 02, 2013
I sent this letter to the MDJ but they have not run it so here is the body, maybe you want to give it to Ott to follow up on. Our Commissioner will not!!

Ok Code Enforcement here is your chance to prove to Pete that you do not selectively apply the rules.

Per Pete you have cited a business for having flags improperly displayed.

So how about riding up Canton Rd. and citing:

the used car lot at the corner of Westerly way

Cherokee Cattle Company

the car lot next to Krystal across from Market Square

Marietta Fish Market

Tyson Corners Shopping Center

and the new Car Wash Barn

And I am sure that you can find other violations as you drive up the road, like the hot dog banners by the Wells Fargo at the corner of Piedmont and Canton, the used cars being sold at 4035 Canton Rd.

So can you prove Pete wrong???
May 30, 2013
How laughable,

You mock "anonymous" while writing an entire article about an ANONYMOUS business

George Middleton
May 30, 2013
To anonymous. First of all the article is not about an anonymous business. It is about abuses of power and restrictive sign ordinances.

Had he mentioned the name of the business, he might have been fined, by the "sign guys" for advertising.

On the other hand, it might have resulted in more harassment of the business.

He did the wise thing.

You misread the intent of the column.
Jim Stoll
May 28, 2013
Welcome back Pete. It's a pleasure to hear something from you again. Your article hit the nail on the head. The Cobb County sign ordinance is its symbol of hypocracy. The say you can't fly an American Flag within 52 feet of the center of a roadway. Yet, on Memorial day, Kennesaw erects flags every 50 along Main Street thru the entire city. I once had a good friend from Chicago who opened a sandwich shop on Jim Owens Road, several doors west of Cobb Parkway. The Good Ole Boys of Cobb County refused to allow him to advertise his store's presence there and effectively ran him out of Cobb County. Yet they allow individuals to walk along the roadsides of major roadways of Cobb County waving signs in the faces of car drivers to sell them pizzas or whatever. Then they have the gonads to advertize themselves as "Business Friendly". What a travesty.
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