Banners and posters with bold “We’re Open” lettering have been a staple of store windows as the nation gradually reopened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and business owners in the Dunwoody Village Overlay want the city’s OK to implement such signage as well.

On July 7, the Dunwoody Planning Commission unanimously decided to recommend allowing temporary signs in the Dunwoody Village Overlay, which is a special zoning district that includes more provisions than the rest of the city’s zoning code. Temporary signs are currently restricted in shopping centers in the overlay district.

“Especially with COVID coming up, we’ve seen a large increase with people wanting to put these signs up to let people know that their businesses are open,” said Richard Hathcock, a staff member in the city’s Community Development department, during the Planning Commission meeting.

The amendment to the sign ordinance will go to the City Council for a vote.

Hathcock said the mayor and council requested the staff make the change in the temporary sign ordinance for the Dunwoody Village Overlay.

Temporary signs would have some restrictions, according to the recommended amendment that allows the signs in Dunwoody Village Overlay. Temporary signs could not exceed 24 square feet or be displayed for more than 14 consecutive days. Each lot could have up to two temporary signs at a time, and they would have to be individually attached to poles, fences or similar structures.

Banners and temporary signs bigger than 16 square feet would have to have a sign permit, whereas other temporary signs are considered “standard informational signs” and would not need a permit.

Hathcock said only new businesses in the Dunwoody Village Overlay are currently allowed to have banner signs, so the amendment would change that.

The city cannot regulate the content of the signs under the U.S. Constitution, so Dunwoody Village business owners can pin up anything — including political messaging — as long as it fits the size and shape restrictions.

“This is a temporary fix as we go through COVID to try to help some of our existing businesses here in Dunwoody,” Hatchcock said.

Community Development Director Richard McLeod said everywhere else in the city besides the Village Overlay allows for temporary signs.

“It’s hard from a code enforcement perspective to enforce it,” McLeod said. “People just don’t look at the code, so this is a way to solve that.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, McLeod said the staff has been considering allowing temporary signs in this area.

City staff members are in the early phases of rewriting Dunwoody’s entire sign ordinance at the request of the mayor and council instead of continuing to make amendment changes, McLeod said.

But for now, the amendment may be a temporary fix for Dunwoody Village Overlay business owners if passed by the council.

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