By Tia Lynn Lecorchick Staff Writer

The Morgan County Planning and Development Commission voted on Dec. 19 TO to recommend the approval of modification of a text amendment to allow for the limited use of electronic signs for gas stations.

The Director of Planning and Development, Chuck Jarrell, outlined the proposal to recommend a revisal to the current sign ordinance in Morgan County to allow the use of digital signs for gas stations.

The board met earlier in the month to discuss the preliminary stages of modifying the current sign ordinance, which prohibits the display of flashing or electronic signs throughout the county.

According to Jarrell, The Morgan County Zoning Ordinance Article 17 was designed to “restrain electronic signage, due to potential light pollution and its tendency to distract automobile drivers.”

The original ordinance only permitted electronic displaying time and temperature, which mainly appear outside of local banks. But several local gas stations have requested permission for digital signs, citing frequent price changes that can be easily adjusted with digital technology rather than having to change the numbers manually with a pole to lift the numbers into place.

As of now, only one gas station in Morgan County, the Valero station on Newborn Road, has a digital sign, which was inadvertently approved by the commission when the station was recently renovated. According to the Planning and Development proposal that was adopted, “Staff is not opposed to the moderate use of digital numbers.

The proposed language limits the use of digital numbers to one sign per gasoline retailer. This sign may be two-sided and will address the freestanding sign typically used by gasoline stations to advertise prices.” Board members were wary of becoming too lax about the construction of digital signs throughout the county.

“Signage can become very obtrusive, but the way gas prices are changing daily, you almost have to have the digital signs,” said Brian Lehman, chairman of the Planning Commission. “What we don’t want to see are those 50-foot signs that have popped up in other counties that completely blind you while driving.

Bigger isn’t always better,” cautioned John McMahon, board member for the Planning Commission. The board took into consideration the precedent set by surrounding counties, which have begun favoring electronic signs because the technology provides a cheaper and more efficient way of advertising for businesses.

“We want to help these local businesses out by allowing these signs,” said Jarrell. The planning commission’s recommendation will be taken under advisement and the final decision will be rendered on January 7 at the Board of Commissioners meeting.