Alabaster updates ordinance to include use of electronic signs

By EMILY REED / Special to the Reporter

As popularity gains for businesses interested in the use of electronic message center signs, the city of Alabaster decided to update its sign ordinance.

“The bulk of the changes to the ordinance allowed the inclusion for electronic message center signs,” said City Attorney Jeff Brumlow. “These types of signs are becoming more prevalent, and the city didn’t have any rules about them so they were trying to stay ahead of the curve and have rules in place for them.”

During the Oct. 24 Alabaster City Council meeting, council members approved changes to the city’s sign ordinance to include a definition for electronic message center signs (EMC), defined as “a computer programmable sign capable of displaying words symbols, figures, or picture images that can be altered or rearranged from a remote location without altering the face or surface of the sign.”

Brumlow said these types of signs can often be found in front of churches, businesses, pharmacies and gas stations.

“These types of signs are popping up more because of their use of LED lights,” Brumlow said. “Businesses are finding the signs are more cost efficient.”

The signs are capable of storing and displaying multiple messages in various formats, and can communicate with individuals passing by them at different times of day and in various weather conditions including bright sunlight or rain due to the LED lights.

A portion of the ordinance relating to the EMC signs says all EMC signs must be equipped with an automatic “dimmer device” that adjusts the brightness of the sign to the “ambient light at all times of day, and night, and must be functional and used at all times the sign is illuminated.

Brumlow said EMC signs are not permitted in residential areas and no sign is allowed to have a message appear electronically that changes more than every 12 seconds.

“This was mainly done for safety reasons,” Brumlow said. “You don’t want people distracted trying to read a sign while they are driving.”

Although Brumlow did not have a specific number for how many EMC signs are currently in the city, he said there are not many.

“This is a fairly new trend, but they are starting to pop up more and more,” Brumlow said. “It is the wave of the future for business signage.”

For a complete list of rules and regulations as they relate to EMC signs, Brumlow said residents and business owners can request a copy of the ordinance by calling Alabaster City Hall at (205) 664-6804.