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Signs move closer to compliance

By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
When the station at the corner of Medical Park Drive and U.S. 31 wanted to put up a new sign a few years ago, the owners were told that the sign did not meet code. It had to be sent back and a new one ordered.
But this year the station on another corner of the same intersection put up a new sign when it changed fuel suppliers. Although the sign from the new supplier was not in complete compliance with the code – it is larger than the code allows – it is high in the sky over Atmore.
So why the different treatment?
That is what Harvey White, with Petroleum Engineering Corp., owner of the first station, would like to know.
The change in signs at White's station was requested during the Owens administration, one that applied the sign code very strictly, said building inspector Alan Nix. The sign code is administered through the office of the building inspector.
The sign changes at the other station, owned by Diamond Oil Company, have been in the last month.
Additionally, the signs at Diamond are changes in supplier, not owners, so the old sign specifications would be grandfathered in, according to Nix.
But the station instead put up a smaller sign, one that is closer to the code than the old one it took the place of.
"The sign is larger than code (allows), " Nix said. "But it is two-thirds smaller than the old one. The code would have grandfathered the sign in, simply refacing the old sign."
Nix said he and Atmore Mayor Howard Shell went out to the site and looked at it before making any decisions.
"We were bettering ourselves by using this sign," Nix said.
Shell agreed with that assessment, although he avoided specifics.
"We apply the code as equitably as we can," he said. "And we work with each business owner. Our code is very close to that of other towns in our area, Bay Minette, Brewton and Fairhope. We can't write something that will cover every situation."
The building inspectors' office has been working to create a more uniform look to the city, Nix said, while attempting to accommodate businesses and charity events to the greatest extent possible.
Those events and businesses often utilize banner-type signs, which are prohibited by the code, but are usually available free of charge.
Churches and charity events are allowed to use the signs for a limited time, and are supposed to remove them when the event they advertise is concluded.
Businesses are allowed to use the signs, provided they are not in the right-of-way of any street.