Billboard request prompts debate

Published 3:00 am Friday, January 15, 2016

The Board of Adjustment’s authority to approve billboards outside the specifications of the City of Troy’s zoning ordinance came into question on Thursday.

The question arose as the board considered Durden Outdoor Displays Inc.’s requests to move two existing static billboards on U.S. 231 and in the process raise the height of the boards and expand their size.

“My main concern, and I think the City of Troy’s concern should be, that they’re coming to the Board of Adjustments in essence to change the law,” Fridlin said. “The law now reads that a billboard can be no more than 300 square feet and no higher than 35 feet.”

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The two billboards in question already exceed that size restriction and like many on U.S. 231 have been grandfathered in under the most recent ordinances. Fridlin said removing those existing billboards and relocating them – with additional height and square footage – equates to building new billboards, which should meet the ordinance specifications.

Moreover, he said, the Board of Adjustments’ role is to enforce the law. “If you want to build something that’s 400 feet and 50 feet high, then you don’t need to go to the Board of Adjustments … you need to go to the Planning Commission and change the law.”

Bill Durden said the company purchased several billboards from another company and seeks to move two of those billboards: one located at U.S. 231 near the Troy Sport Shop and another on U.S. 231 South near Fastenal and Days Inn.

“We basically want to move these existing billboards,” he said, explaining the billboard near Fastenal and Days Inn would be moved to sit between Fastenal and Santa Fe, maintaining the required setback of 17.5 feet. The current billboard near Troy Sport Shop would be moved to 800 U.S. 231, Lot BB, which is closer to the CVS store and alongside a service road, and the company was requesting a variance to allow a setback of 10 feet. In both cases, the company requested allowing a height of 50 feet and a size of 400 square feet.

“All we’re asking to do is improve and relocate an infrastructure we already own,” said Earl Durden, who also attended the meeting. He said the signs are 20-plus years old and designed with an offset, which the company seeks to remove.

The board approved the relocation of both billboards, limiting the height to 45 feet and the square footage to 400 square feet, and is requiring the 17.5 setback on both.

“Our first concern is visibility and congestion,” said Jack Norton, board chairman. “And No. 2, we try to work with people.”

He said the board is charged by the city to enforce the ordinance as well as to grant variances and special use exemptions when deemed appropriate.

The board also approved Durden’s request to install a 55 foot, double-sided digital billboard on U.S. 231 in 2015.

“When we approved that 55 foot billboard, it was because of the site and the location,” Norton said. “And we had no people who had objected to it.”

In other business on Thursday, the board:

• Approved an extension request from Howard Weissinger, representing The Garden District. The company plans to build an apartment complex at 229 Dozier Road. “We are in a position to close our construction loan and hopefully begin construction in the first part of February,” he said. “Our plans remain the same. We’re just seeking an extension.”

• Approved a request from Earl Ellis to convert a property at 401 S. Brundidge St. back to residential. Ellis purchased the house when Family Ties moved to the Square. “We own the rental houses on both sides of that, so we want to make it residential again,” he said. The board also approved Ellis’ request to use the existing sign structure, left by the business, to advertise his rental properties.

• Elected officers for the board, including Norton, president; Green, vice president; and Melissa Sanders, secretary.