While proposed changes to the Lincoln County sign ordinance wait to be reviewed by the county planning board and approved by county commissioners, members of the East Lincoln Area Council (ELAC) are going on the offensive in response to a petition given to commissioners at a recent meeting.
The petition supported allowing temporary signs in Lincoln County; the current sign ordinance bans the signs, also known as â€œfloppy or popsicleâ€ signs.
Members of the council disagreed with many of the signatures and the way they were obtained by Denver business owner Mark Cotter.
The group is also concerned that the signatures obtained may have made an impact to Lincoln County commissioners.
As a result, the council is sending letters to business owners and employees, asking if the signatures hold merit and if the signee would consider rescinding the signature on the original petition.
Council member Ken Morris, owner of Servpro of Lincoln/North Gaston, volunteered to draft a letter.
â€œWe want businesses to be able to advertise,â€ said Morris in the letter. â€œThere are reasons that the â€˜floppy/popsicle type signageâ€™ is a disadvantage to advertising.â€
The disadvantages of allowing temporary signs that were listed in Morrisâ€™ letter include:
Â· Safety: The small signs area a traffic hazard in that they are generally placed in areas where when someone is trying to read them, attention is diverted from driving along busy N.C. 16.
Â· Advertising: A sign eight square feet should contain no more than seven words. Marketing firms indicated people are not able to read as much verbiage as is often placed on these small signs.
Â· Clutter: These signs are at best a conglomeration of distractions that litter N.C. 16 and detract from the true beauty of the Denver/Lake Norman area.
â€œWe would like for you to reconsider and rescind your signature to this change for the sign ordinance,â€ the letter stated.
Morris said thatâ€™s exactly what people heâ€™s talked to who signed the original petition is doing: rescinding the original signatures.
â€œTheyâ€™ve stated the original petition was misrepresented in the fact that they wouldnâ€™t be able to put up any kind of temporary signage,â€ said Morris.
Morris said some of the businesses that have filled out the rescind request included Artistic Portrait Design, Lakeside Collision, Safari Miles and Fit Dimension.
Morris estimated about 11 letters sent to businesses have been returned undeliverable due to businesses closing or moving.
â€œThere were about three or four businesses that signed the petition that werenâ€™t located in Lincoln County,â€ said Morris. All of the other businesses represented on Cotterâ€™s position are believed by ELAC to be within Lincoln County limits.
The petition that contained 130 signatures asked for temporary signs to be allowed as part of the proposed changes.
â€œIâ€™ve talked to some of the people who signed the petition and they said they didnâ€™t sign,â€ said ELAC chairman Todd Wulfhorst. â€œI donâ€™t think the way the petition was presented to the commission or the way Cotter obtained the signatures is good.â€
Over the last 18 months, members of ELAC worked with county zoning administrator Randy Hawkins regarding changes to the ordinance.
Earlier this year, before commissioners sent the proposed changes back to the planning board, Wulfhorst said Cotter had been trying to change the provision that would allow businesses to display the small, portable signs.
Under the current ordinance, temporary signs are not allowed.
According to Wulfhorst, Hawkins has now included a provision that each business in Lincoln County â€“ estimated by Wulfhorst at around 6,000 â€“ be allowed one temporary sign not to exceed eight square feet.
â€œWeâ€™re not talking buildings, weâ€™re talking businesses,â€ said Wulfhorst. â€œIf a strip mall has seven stores, for example, then seven signs can be displayed.â€
Joe Turbyfill of Turbyfill True Value Hardware on N.C. 16 pointed out the current sign ordinance and the proposed changes donâ€™t apply to churches, unlike businesses, which are considered tax-exempt.
â€œThere shouldnâ€™t be any difference,â€ he said. â€œI donâ€™t like this because Iâ€™m a business owner and pay taxes. Churches shouldnâ€™t benefit. Iâ€™m not against churches, but we need to make changes that apply to everyone.â€
Denver business owner Joe DiPento said the issue over temporary signs make him uneasy.
â€œDriving up N.C. 16 one day, I saw one business that had seven temporary signs,â€ he said.
Council member Bo Moore summed up what the group wanted to accomplish by working on changes to the sign ordinance.
â€œAll we want to do is clean up the roads,â€ he said. â€œWe also want to make the area more attractive.â€
The groupâ€™s set a June 19 deadline to have information to county leaders. At that time, county commissioners may make a final decision on the issue.
Calls were not returned Tuesday seeking comment from Cotter.
by Jon Mayhew