Joe Riddle has no problem with Hope Mills trying to make itself the best possible community it can be for its citizens.
But the longtime Fayetteville developer is concerned the town may be going too far as it tries to develop a sign ordinance for the city.
Last month, the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners voted to table a decision on a new sign ordinance and scheduled a special meeting to hear public input on the sign question on Monday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m.
Riddle, who spoke at the previous meeting, plans to share his concerns about the sign ordinance at the upcoming meeting.
“If we continue to grow our codes to parallel these wealthier places, we’re going to run ourselves out of business,’’ said Riddle. “Everybody wants to be like Pinehurst or Cary. The problem is, everybody’s not a millionaire retired from the North with a lot of disposable income who plays golf, bridge and croquet every day.
“Everybody is not an engineer with a Ph.D. who works at a Triangle park for a pharmaceutical company or other good company where the husband and wife are making $150,000 each a year.’’
New sign rules like Hope Mills is considering mean signs have to be replaced. Those replacements tend to be costly, and that’s why Riddle thinks the rules could negatively impact businesses in Hope Mills.
What has Riddle concerned is talk that Hope Mills may be considering the elimination of pylon signs. A pylon sign is a freestanding sign that sits apart from a building and has its own support structure that can include a base made of something permanent like brick or concrete.
Fayetteville has a sign ordinance that Riddle describes as strict but reasonably fair as it strikes a balance between presenting a good appearance while also allowing a business owner to adequately advertise his or her business.
If pylon signs are banned, Riddle said, the only option left for businesses would be monument signs. These include ground signs that are attached to a permanent foundation or base and are two-sided.
Riddle said monument signs are fine for a single-tenant business, like a fast food restaurant. But for something like a strip mall or a shopping center, a pylon sign is preferred so all of the businesses can be displayed.
That was the situation Riddle faced at the Colt Crossing shopping complex on old Highway 24 near Cape Fear High School.
When the new Highway 24 bypass was created, traffic no longer passed in front of the shopping center but behind it. Riddle got permission from Cumberland County to build a large pylon sign on the new bypass that promotes all the businesses in the shopping center, including some he’s not affiliated with. Riddle said the sign cost between $60,000 to $65,000.
The possible banning of pylon signs isn’t Riddle’s only concern in Hope Mills. He said there’s also been discussion of limiting signs promoting real estate to 2 feet by 4 feet.
He noted that on a typical real estate sign, information includes the acreage available, the owner’s name and a phone number.
Squeezing all that information on a 2-by-4 sign that people could read without having to pull off the road and come to a complete stop is difficult.
“I don’t think anyone has looked at the size of the signs,’’ he said.
Riddle thinks the people in Hope Mills need to realize their leaders are considering sign restrictions that would be the strictest of any town Riddle has worked with. That’s quite a statement considering he’s got projects as far flung as Raleigh, Rockingham, Lillington, Raeford, Spout Springs, Cameron and Southport.
“They are definitely going to an extreme,’’ Riddle said. “It sounds like a train is going that I won’t be able to slow up.’’
Riddle is afraid if Hope Mills continues on this track and opts to create other restrictions that will inhibit the growth of business in the town, it could drive some things away from Hope Mills.
“I’ve got a grocer that wants to go to Hope Mills,’’ Riddle said. “I’ve got a Dunkin’ Donuts. I’ve got another full-service restaurant. They are all going to probably get hit with the new ordinance.
“What else is Hope Mills planning to do? If they want to be Pinehurst or Cary, they could get real strict. Everybody isn’t going to want to go to Hope Mills if they get real strict. They’ll just bypass (the town).’’
Riddle said he’s not arguing against Hope Mills developing some kind of stricter sign ordinance, but he thinks whatever is done needs to be within reason.
“They’re going from one extreme to the other,’’ he said.
Photo: Joe Riddle