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The banners hanging on Concord Street.

Abbeville to review sign ordinance regarding banners

Onezieme Mouton owns one of the historic buildings on Concord Street in downtown Abbeville.
Mouton currently has three tenants occupying the building, the most he has had in the several years that he has owned the property. A fourth business is looking to possibly call the location home.
What’s creating buzz for the building? Mouton credits new banners placed on the building to promote the businesses. However, Mouton eventually learned the banners violated the city’s sign ordinance.
“I put the signs up without applying for a permit,” Mouton said. “That is due to my negligence, because I didn’t know there was such a thing. I know ignorance is not an excuse and that is certainly on me.
“It’s not the tenants’ fault, it’s mine.”
On Tuesday, Mouton approached the Abbeville City Council during its regular meeting to request a variance. The council did not grant that request. However, the council will allow Mouton to keep the signs up while it reviews the ordinance, a move that could allow such signs in the future.
“We cannot say enough good things about what Mr. Mouton has done for our downtown,” Councilman Brady Broussard Jr. said. “It’s never a good thing when an ordinance is either deliberately or accidently ignored. We are in the era of banners now. There has been a lack of enforcement for the sign ordinance. Everyone is guilty of that.
“I would hope we would look at this opportunity to adjust our ordinance, for what is now an era of banners.”
Mouton did eventually apply for the banners through the proper channels. Abbeville’s Planning and Zoning Commission denied Mouton’s application for the banners, based solely on the banners not meeting the standard of the sign ordinance.
“We had no issue about the quality,” Planning and Zoning Commissioner Andrew Dozier said. “I will be honest with you, I love it. I have traveled all over. You see (these kinds of banners) everywhere.
“This decision was based on the city ordinance.”
Charles Dill, who chairs the planning and zoning commission, said consistency is important when it comes to these ordinances.
“Where do you draw the line?,” Dill asked. “If we give a variance here, someone may come along with cheap signs, and want a variance. You have to draw the line.
“We based our ruling upon the ordinance.”
Abbeville Main Street Manager Charlene Beckett, who works closely with businesses and projects in the downtown area, said she agrees that Mouton’s signs are nice. However, the ordinance has to take precedence.
“Onezieme and I have worked together on many projects,” Beckett said. “I also work closely with the planning commission. I know how hard they work and how seriously they take their job. It’s difficult to say, yes, the signs are beautiful. Yes, we all like them. They are going against our ordinance.
“I think the council has to make a decision on how the ordinance will read in the future.”
Mayor Mark Piazza agreed.
“This has brought to light,” Piazza said, “what I consider a flaw in our ordinance. These banners are very tactful and very creative. They are nice looking in our downtown area and are promoting businesses. Not all ordinances fit all businesses in all areas.
“I think we do need to look at a change for this ordinance and modify it.”
The council tabled the request for a variance. The council did allow a stay for the banners, while a review of the ordinance is done.
“I understand codes and ordinances are written to prevent bad things from happening,” Mouton said. “I really think in this case, that we might have an ordinance that might prevent something really good from happening.”

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