{mosimage} From blinking cocktail glasses to quick lube offers, Fayetteville’s roadways play host to a veritable cornucopia of signs, whose growth until 1997, were virtually unregulated. On May 5, The Fayetteville City Council got a first look at a proposed new sign ordinance designed to further regulate signs on the city’s roadways.
    Jimmy Teal, the chief officer for planning, presented the proposed ordinance to the council during its monthly work meeting. The sign ordinance is based on a similar ordinance in Cary. Cary, the seventh largest metropolitan city in the state, is known for its controlled growth and planning. In 1971, Cary adopted zoning and other ordinances on an ad-hoc basis to control growth and give the city structure. Passing a Planned Unit Development zoning ordinance to accommodate population growth related to the growth of Research Triangle Park, Cary’s local government placed a high value on creating an aesthetically pleasing town. A PUD allows a developer to plan an entire community before beginning development, thus allowing future residents to be aware of where churches, schools, commercial and industrial areas will be located well before such use begins.
    Fayetteville is putting a new emphasis on the aesthetics of the city and on planning in general. Teal said as the city moves forward with the Unified Development Ordinance, it is looking at all aspects of city development. The UDO does not address signs, Teal explained, so the council directed city staff to pull together information on sign ordinances and bring a proposal to the table. Teal said the staff took a look at sign ordinances from across the state. A recent study by the City of Winston-Salem rated municipalities on their ordinances — Cary was the most restrictive, while Fayetteville was one of the least restrictive. Teal said the city’s goal probably is to fall somewhere in the middle of the two, but used the Cary ordinance as a starting point.
    “The ultimate goal is to make Fayetteville a more attractive city,” said Teal.
    While the proposed ordinance deals with three types of signs — pole signs, wall signs and ground signs — the main concern is on pole signs. Pole signs are a fixture in the city, particularly along thoroughfares like Yadkin Road, Bragg Boulevard and Ramsey Street. Teal pointed out that in these heavy commercial areas, pole signs have been placed on relatively small lots and are located one after the other. Under the proposed ordinance, both the number and size of pole signs will be regulated. The Cary ordinance does not allow any pole signs. The current Fayetteville ordinance allows businesses to have three kinds of signs: a pole sign, no more than 25 feet high, with 150-square-feet of copy space; a ground sign, no more than 8 feet high, with 150 feet in copy space; and a wall sign.
    Under Fayetteville’s proposed ordinance, pole signs will only be allowed on major thoroughfares, which will be designated by the council. Only one pole sign will be allowed per site. The maximum copy size is down to 50 feet and the maximum height is down to 17 feet, with a 10-foot minimum. Roads not designated as thoroughfares would not be allowed to have any pole signs at all.
    For the city’s purpose, a thoroughfare is a road with more than four travel lanes and a turn lane. Teal said people looking for a business would be looking across four or five lanes of traffic and might have difficulty seeing a ground sign.
    The council discussed the amount of time businesses would have to bring their signs into compliance if the ordinance is adopted. The planning staff recommended a five-year amortization period for pole signs, three years for wall signs and two years for ground signs. If a business’ sign is not in compliance, they must take the sign down and pay a permit fee to construct a sign to replace it. Councilman Charles Evans suggested waiving the permit fee if businesses bring their signs into compliance during the first year of the amortization schedule.
    Another key point in the ordinance is defining what is and what a ground sign isn’t. When the first sign ordinance was passed in 1997, many portable signs were converted to ground signs by anchoring them into the ground. Under the new ordinance, these converted ground signs will not be allowed.
City Manager Dale Iman said the ground signs were the “most egregious” offenders. “The portable signs that were allowed to be converted — signs that are propped up, signs with lights burned out — these are all problems that the ordinance will address and by addressing those it’s a major improvement in our city,” said Iman.
    Teal said between 75 and 80 percent of the businesses in the city will be affected by the ordinance if it is approved. Councilman Keith Bates urged the council to seriously consider adopting the ordinance noting that failure to adopt the ordinance would result in “playing 40 years of catch up again.” Bates said failure to act on the proposal would result in future councils looking back and saying the council should have done something about it.
    In other business, the council also took a look at billboards, with the staff bringing a proposed ordinance to ban the placement of any new billboards within the city limits. The transfer ordinance will remain in effect, under which sign companies can replace one sign as long as they take one sign down. There are currently 180 billboards in the city limits.

Contact Janice Burton at: 

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