Marilyn Vail, Tupelo’s zoning administrator, estimates the team has sent out at least 250 warning letters in the past few months. She’s got another batch to send out this week.
“It’s on when you’re open,” she said. “It’s off when you’re closed. It doesn’t have to flash.”
She said a particular “open” sign style from Sam’s Club has been the most abused in Tupelo.
It costs about $125 and says “open” in red and has a blue oval light that wraps around the word. It has three settings – on, off and flash. If it’s set to the “flash” setting, Vail said it is in violation of the city’s development code.
Violators get a letter saying they need to change the setting to constantly on or they face a $1,000 fine or 30 days in jail.
Vail said she hasn’t had to move any further than a warning yet.
“Most people fix it,” she said. “Just a few feel that we’re infringing on their rights.”
An employee at A-1 Payday Loans on West Main Street heard about the warnings and changed the shop’s sign four months ago from flashing to constantly on.
On the other side of town, Walter Partlow, owner of Tupelo Tire and Wheel, had heard about the ban on flashing signs but thought it applied to the large, flashing arrow marquees of the 1980s.
He said he didn’t know his business’ “open” sign was in violation until he got a warning letter at the end of August.
“I feel like it’s a big waste of time and money – sending a letter out but not coming in and explaining to businesses what’s wrong,” he said.
He’s changed the sign’s setting to “on,” but he said Tuesday he still feels like the city should be spending time working on something else.
“It makes no sense to me,” he said, citing the large number of electronic signs in town that flash and scroll text. “It’s really not fair.”