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ELAC looks at options regarding sign ordinance

Thanks to a petition of 130 people started by Denver businessman Mark Cotter, the proposed changes to Lincoln County’s sign ordinance is back in the hands of the planning board.
Members of the East Lincoln Area Council (ELAC) were updated last Monday on the progress of retooling the proposed changes.
ELAC chairman Todd Wulfhorst said Cotter’s petition asked for – and county commissioners agreed – that temporary signs be allowed.
“From a business standpoint, he probably got 15 – 20 businesses to sign the petition,” said Wulfhorst. “County commissioners really put zoning administrator Randy Hawkins under a microscope.”
Wulfhorst referred to commissioner’s recent decision to send the proposed changes to the sign ordinance back to the Planning Board for further study at the March 20 Lincoln County Commission meeting.
Commissioners expressed concern over temporary signs, also called “floppy” or “popsicle” signs.
The ordinance currently prohibits these signs, and they wouldn’t have been affected by the proposed changes.
According to an email sent by Hawkins to members of ELAC, temporary signs cannot be more than eight square feet and can’t be more than five feet tall.
Only one sign is allowed per business unless the business is located in a strip mall. The signs can’t be illuminated and must be out of the right-of-way or 30 feet from the center line of the road.
Hawkins said having the original proposal sent back to the Planning Board has caused a two-month delay in getting the sign ordinance changes approved.
“The plan is to take both the original proposal and the new proposal back to commissioners in the future,” said Hawkins.
Wulfhorst added there is no room for compromise on the issue of allowing temporary signs, something both the Lincolnton/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and the Planning Board did not endorse.
Two other suggestions made include holding off on the issue until after the November elections and starting a petition banning the signs.
ELAC members are expected to discuss the issue again at its next meeting.
“Commissioners Mitchem, Patton and Funderburk have opened a can of worms with this,” said Wulfhorst. “It’s really hit home for them.”
Cotter, owner of Four Season Marine Supply on N.C. 16, circulated a flyer earlier this year regarding temporary signs and why they shouldn’t be banned under the sign ordinance.
“Real estate companies, churches and even politicians can put up these signs anytime and anywhere,” he said. “I’m selling something, and the county’s telling me that I can’t put a temporary sign on my own property.”
Cotter confirmed Saturday that the petition was circulated among businesses on N.C. 16.
“I closed the shop for a day and went up and down the street, getting signatures from employees and business owners,” he said.

Other proposed changes to the county’s sign ordinance include:
· Off-premise signs smaller than 32 square feet would require permits and would only be allowed in business and industrial districts. Currently, only signs larger than 32 square feet require permits.
· Non-conforming signs – those that were allowed to remain in place because they were there before the zoning ordinance was adopted – would have to be removed within a year of notice.
· The definition of “portable sign” would be “any sign designed or intended to be readily relocated whether or not it is permanently attached to a building, structure or on the ground.
by Jon Mayhew

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