Photo by Jim Massara
Councilman Ambrose Clay makes a point to city manager Hugh Austin and city attorney Mike Williams at Tuesday’s council meeting. Councilman Joe Carn is seated to Clay’s right.
COLLEGE PARK — A signage package in front of a RaceTrac gas station proposed for Camp Creek Parkway led to a nearly hour-long debate and only conditional approval at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
The sticking point was whether or not the signage would have LED elements, requested by RaceTrac to stay consistent with its national branding standards but prohibited in most parts of College Park. Because the station would be in an office professional zoning district, the package required the approval of mayor and council and allowed a certain amount of discretion.
“We’re on the main drag, we’re an international city, we have a state-of-the-art convention center,” said councilman Joe Carn, who argued for allowing the LED signage. “It’s like telling them they can’t have digital LED pumps.”
Mayor Jack Longino argued against approving RaceTrac’s LED sign, saying that it might open College Park to legal action by gas stations elsewhere that couldn’t get similar signage approved.
“I might be surprised, but I think that’s a hard case to sell in front of a judge when QuikTrip sues because they built on the next corner in a CD zoning and we didn’t allow it,” Longino said.
Councilman Ambrose Clay suggested limiting LED displays to numerals only — suitable for displaying gas prices — as a way of splitting the difference, but was told by city attorney Mike Williams that doing so might open College Park to charges of restricting free speech.
Chad Baker of RaceTrac told the council that LED signs were safer both for employees and customers — they don’t fall apart in high winds as do older-style manual flip signs — and asked for quick approval.
In the end, though, the council voted unanimously to approve RaceTrac’s sign package minus the LEDs.
Longino said later that a more comprehensive sign ordinance addressing LEDs would be discussed at a future council meeting.