Sign compliance

Illegal advertising

and litter clutter Tupelo

Tupelo's problem with signage started decades before this week's complaints about illegally placed signs (advertising a furniture store's going-out-of-business sale) blocking entrances to other businesses.

That incident, however, opens the door to a thorough examination of Tupelo's sign ordinances and citywide compliance with them. A parallel issue is litter ubiquitous garbage and trash strewn on virtually every street and along roadways. Mayor Larry Otis voiced frustration with the issue in a conversation early this week with Journal Associate Editor Danny McKenzie.

The city fights a constant, behind-the-curve battle to keep the clutter cleared.

A protracted debate about signage preceded adoption of existing ordinances. The previous regulations provided, at best, broad latitude that favored signmakers and businesses' choices, giving not even a nod to citywide appearance and reasonable uniformity. Parts of Tupelo looked more like an advertising war zone than a prospering business center. The trees, in effect, obscured the forest.

The ordinance in force requires a simple permitting process, including generous allowances for temporary exceptions. However, time and the nature of city governance lets some things slip and slide. Old problems become current problems, and strengthened enforcement becomes necessary.

Planning Director Pat Falkner said the gradual erosion in compliance makes an enforcement crackdown necessary. The reminder that Tupelo limits sign size placement and height, and regulates placement of obtrusive devices like large satellite dishes, isn't unlike the occasional roadblock to check drivers' licenses. It helps to keep people focused on obeying the law rather than getting away with violating it.

In the process of tightening enforcement, the city planning department could undertake an assessment of what additional ordinances may be needed to keep a growing city from hiding itself behind a sea of slogans that meld into an indistinguishable blur. Issues like smaller, less obtrusive satellite dishes also need to be revisited with an eye toward providing latitude for residential owners.

Advertising, as newspapers know perhaps better than any other business, draws attention and drives sales. However, reasonable limits enhance rather than detract from the advertised product and the creativity invested in the advertising medium.

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