Debate over new Pepsi sign continues

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For years, drivers coming into Birmingham have been updated on the time and temperature, thanks to an electronic sign on top of the Two North Twentieth building. Now, they have a recommendation for a beverage. “I think the finished product is gaudy,” said Joseph Baker, III, founder of the group “I Believe in Birmingham.” “I don’t think it fits in with the rest of the city.”

The iconic electronic billboard has been replaced by a Pepsi advertisement. It was put up by Buffalo Rock, a locally owned company that distributes Pepsi products. The issue isn’t just the appearance to Baker. The sign was not approved by the Birmingham Design Review Committee. Based on the City of Birmingham Zoning Ordinance, most signs that advertise a product that is not heavily distributed or housed within the building would be labeled an “Off Premise Sign.” Signs that fall under that regulation have to meet several criteria, including:

  • Maximum Size: The maximum sign area shall be 800 square feet, with a maximum height of 20 feet and a maximum length of 50 feet inclusive of any embellishments, border or trim, but excluding the base or apron, supports and other structural members.
  • Maximum Height: The maximum height for any Off-Premise Sign shall be forty feet above ground level at its base. Where the ground level is lower than the main-traveled way of the street or highway along which the sign is too constructed, the maximum height as measured to the top of the sign face shall be extended to a point twenty-five feet above the plane of said main-traveled way.
  • General Off-Premise Sign Requirements: No Off-Premise Sign shall be permitted on top of any building or rooftop.

(Source: City of Birmingham website)

Birmingham City Councilor Jay Roberson, who chairs the Zoning and Planning Committee, says Buffalo Rock found a loop hole, and with the permission of the building’s owner,  were able to put the sign up. “I think Birmingham will eventually be to the point where we can have signage [and] people want to advertise all over,” said Roberson, adding, “But, we have to enforce things in the city and make sure we have uniformity.”

Councilor Roberson, along with fellow Councilor Steven Hoyt say the city’s lawyers will look through the existing ordinances and determine what, if any, steps can be taken. For the future, however, both want to tighten up the zoning ordinances to insure this doesn’t happen again without approval from the Design Review Committee. “We should not make any exceptions,” said Hoyt. “Irrespective of who or what the company may be.”

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