Granting variances is not always fair

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tuesday the Picayune City Council heard from two businesses that both seek to put up electric billboards in approximately the same location.
The city has passed an ordinance limiting electronic billboards to within a mile of each other as a way to limit or control visual noise. We agree that too many billboards are ugly and distracting and, after a point, they all become a blur. We suspect that billboard companies also applaud the city’s zoning regulations. In fact, it should come as no surprise, now that each billboard might be guaranteed sovereignty within a mile radius, that billboard companies should stake out each mile within the city along busy traffic corridors.
However, at Tuesday’s council meeting, the board seemed willing at first to grant two requests from two different billboard companies for the same patch of land. While we can appreciate the Picayune City Council’s efforts to be fair to all businesses, granting such a request would undermine the very ordinance these companies—and the mayor and the council—appreciate.
Besides that, if the council is so willing grant variances to businesses seeking to dodge zoning ordinances, why, then, even have the zoning ordinances? If the council believes no more than one electric billboard should be in a one-mile radius, then it should maintain that position. That is what is fair.
No doubt there are good reasons for granting variances for certain things. At the same Tuesday meeting, Councilwoman Tammy Valente pointed out that granting a Home Occupational License usually does not change the character of a neighborhood and, usually, neighbors aren’t even aware of license. But, as the city attorney also pointed out, if the Home Occupation License does begin to affect the character of the neighborhood, if someone begins selling merchandise out of their home, for instance, then neighbors have every right to complain and the city has every right to revoke the license.

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