By ROBIN SHANNON
LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish business owners who operate along major traffic corridors in the parish are being asked pay attention to how signage and other advertisements are placed in front of their businesses.
At a recent council meeting, parish officials said the Planning and Zoning Department will begin to keep tabs on whether or not business owners are complying with regulations within the parish’s “Major Corridor Overlay District.”
The overlay district includes stores and business along Airline Highway between the St. James Parish line and St. Charles Parish line, U.S. 51 from Interstate 10 to Airline Highway, Belle Terre Boulevard and Woodland Drive. Last month, Planning and Zoning employees hand-delivered letters to businesses along those roads notifying them of the new emphasis on the overlay district.
“We do not want to go out and cite anyone. That is not what this is about,” said Planning and Zoning Director Angelic Sutherland. “We just want to give businesses an idea of how we want our parish to look.”
Sutherland said the parish has recently received an increase in complaints about business flouting regulations, particularly when it comes to signage.
“Some of the common compliance issues include banner signs and flags containing advertisements, signs placed on state and/or parish servitudes and the displaying of more than one on-premise, detached sign,” Sutherland said. “It goes beyond the signage. We also want businesses to pay attention to landscape and litter. We are giving the business owners time to learn what they need to do to comply with our ‘overlay district’ ordinances.”
Sutherland said the overlay district has been on the books in the parish for a number of years, but the parish had been lax regarding enforcement of the rules. She said the parish wants to ensure that all business owners are held to the same standard.
“We want to do what we can to educate them,” Sutherland said. “Since the letters went out, our office has received calls from business owners asking for inspectors to come out to look at their property. Most of them just want to comply with what we are asking for.”
According to the ordinance, each business within the overlay district is allowed one sign mounted flat on the street facades of the building. The signs should be one square foot of sign for each linear foot of building width. Each business on a site shall be permitted no more than two canopy signs.
The area for each canopy sign shall be limited to six square feet mounted perpendicular to the building facade over the pedestrian walkway or under the front canopy. Off-premises or billboard signs, portable signs and temporary detached signs are strictly prohibited.
Flags, streamers, banners or pennants, when used to advertise products or services, are considered signs, but they may only be displayed in connection with grand openings or special events no more than once semiannually for any one business entity or applicant.
Sutherland said such signs may be displayed for a period not to exceed 14 consecutive calendar days upon the issuance of a temporary permit by the Department of Planning and Zoning.
This in no way prohibits or infringes upon the right to display the American flag or other political or other flags if displayed in a patriotic and nonadvertising manner.