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ELAC to work with planning board on sign ordinance

The East Lincoln Area Council (ELAC) is now prepared to work with the Lincoln County Planning Board regarding changes to the county’s sign ordinance.
At the monthly ELAC meeting Oct. 18 at the East Lincoln Community Center, members received proposed changes to the sign ordinance presented by county zoning administrator Randy Hawkins.
Hawkins presented the proposed changes after receiving recommendations from ELAC.
“ELAC hit the nail on the head with their recommendations and I’d like to apply the changes countywide,” he said.
The changes proposed by ELAC include elimination of the grandfather clause that allows signs to remain under the original ordinance.
Other changes proposed include a one-year time limit for compliance for all nonconforming signs that are pre-existing; all signs that are not mounted on fixed, solid bases such as stone, brick or cement have no more than two legs or support pieces made of brick, wood, rock or metal; and charging a $25 temporary use permit fee for banners with a $5 fine per day for those without a permit.
Originally, ELAC wanted the changes to mainly be effective along the N.C. 16 corridor between N.C. 150 and 73.
“You’re going to run into trouble if you apply the changes to just N.C. 16 and not for the whole county,” said business owner Joe Turbyfill, who owns Turbyfill True Value Hardware.
Fellow east Lincoln business owner Joe DiPento was concerned with the time limit for existing signs.
“One year is too long,” he said. “Three months is more than enough time to comply.”
One proposed change presented by Hawkins would eliminate advertising signs in residential districts.
Other jurisdictions don’t allow them, Hawkins said, and Lincoln County should be no exception.
“Currently, there’s no limit on the number or spacing of these small advertising signs,” he said.
The change would allow these types of signs to be in business and industrial districts, as long as they were 1,000 feet apart, according to Hawkins’ proposal.
Another proposed change would amend the current sign ordinance regarding temporary signs.
Hawkins is proposing that temporary signs: be displayed for no more than 30 consecutive days; shall not exceed 32 square feet; be for a special event and not a routine business activity; and be limited to one per business. Permits for the sign may only be issued of two times per 12 month period.
“That way, if someone puts up a sign without a permit, we would know about it,” he said.
The ordinance currently allows businesses to display banners for special events for a period not to exceed 14 days and up to three times per year with no permit required.
“This makes it impossible to keep track of how long banners have been up, making enforcement difficult,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins said the change is a way to help keep track of temporary signs.
“There’s a legitimate need for temporary signs,” said Hawkins, “but we’re finding these signs are becoming more permanent.”
While ELAC decided in the end to go before the planning board in November, Hawkins said it may be the first of the year before Lincoln County commissioners would hear any comments regarding changes to the sign ordinance.
He told ELAC members that he would notify them of a time and date a workshop with the planning board would be possible.
During the sign ordinance discussion, Turbyfill voiced concern that the fee for a sign permit was too high.
“It shouldn’t cost me $200 to update my sign,” he said. “You don’t realize how hard business people are being hit.”
Hawkins responded by saying that while replacing a sign face doesn’t incur a fee, changing the sign completely does.
“I agree $200 for a sign permit is too high,” said Hawkins.
by Jon Mayhew

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