Organizations using downtown banners to raise awareness for specific causes will have to find other locations after the city approved changes to its banner program Tuesday.

Community organizations that had used banners lining Washington Street to raise awareness for their causes are going to have to revisit their marketing plans.

That’s because the Columbus Board of Works has changed its downtown banner policy, voting Tuesday to revert to the program’s original intent from the 1990s.

Starting Jan. 1, banners will be required to promote the downtown area, encourage tourism and be event-specific, said Robin Hilber, the city’s community development programs coordinator.

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The change — approved in a 5-0 vote — means that banners recognizing specific organizations, anniversaries or causes will no longer be allowed. Hilber said the city gets about 20 requests annually to display banners, and said it has become challenging to accommodate all of them.

Seven groups that had been utilizing downtown banners will no longer be eligible under the approved changes.

Judy Lifferth, organizer of National Family Week in Bartholomew County, spoke in opposition to the proposal.

“I believe banners represent families,” Lifferth said.

Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development with the city, told members that all affected organizations have been notified.

While some have expressed disappointment, “by and large, a number of them understand what we’re doing,” she said.

Karen Niverson, executive director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center, said she favored returning the banner program to its original purpose — to drive people to local events and boost the local economy.

“That’s what this program is intended to do,” she said.

Niverson also said she thought the community would be able to help organizations find other locations to get out their messages.

New downtown banner program

Starting Jan. 1, banners along Washington Street will be required to promote the downtown area, encourage tourism and be event-specific,

Applicants will be asked to include the number of people expected to attend their events, the number of participants from outside Bartholomew County and the number of overnight hotel stays that are expected.

Installation and removal costs will increase from $125 to $150.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or