Board Approves Amended Sign Ordinance

Published 1:30 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2015

CUMBERLAND — The Cumberland County Board of Supervisors has adopted an amended sign ordinance that allows animated, off-premise and banner signs, but prohibits billboards bigger than 300 square feet, street banners and signs posted to street signs and utility poles.

The action, after a lengthy discussion in which supervisors grappled over sign sizes and placement, businesses using banner signs for advertisement and being business-friendly, drew support from District One Supervisor Bill Osl, District Two Supervisor and Board Chairman Lloyd Banks, District Three Supervisor Kevin Ingle and District Four Supervisor David Meinhard. District Five Supervisor Parker Wheeler abstained.

Last month, supervisors held a public hearing and tasked the county’s planning commission with reviewing additional amendments to the proposed ordinance.

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During the Tuesday meeting, Banks said he was unhappy with the current ordinance and the planning commission’s recommendations. “If we don’t have a problem with signage in the county, I’m puzzled why we’re going to go through so much effort to restrict people’s liberties as it relates to personal property,” he said. “I think the ordinance needs a lot of work.”

Ingle said he was looking out for businesses. “I think a lot of the things in here are very tight for existing businesses and for new businesses coming,” he said, adding that he wanted to see changes to make the ordinance more business-friendly. “I think animated signs can give a message to boost the business,” Ingle said. “I’d like to see the ordinance cut back drastically.”

Changes that the planning commission most recently recommended included eliminating the twice-a-year restriction on yard sale signs and expansion and clarification of the language addressing signs on a vehicle, which the board adopted.

The planning commission recommended no changes in expanding the use of electronic signs and stood by the suggestion of prohibiting the appearance of movement or scrolling on such signs, which the board rejected. The commission also recommended leaving the requirement for a sign permit, “which clarifies the legality of a sign for the records of both businesses and the county,” according to a memo from County Planning Director Sara Carter to board members and County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Seay Giles.

After the meeting, Giles said that the adopted ordinance may come back to the board “for some cleanup. We will go through it to make sure that with the amendments tonight there are no conflicting provisions that would need to be [addressed],” said Giles.

The revised proposed ordinance, wrote Carter in an earlier memo, reduces confusion between sections, adds missing definitions and clarifies existing definitions.

“The existing sign ordinance is really very difficult to understand,” Carter told The Herald during an earlier interview. She said in revising the ordinance, the commission wanted to make sure people were able to appropriately advertise their businesses.

“Staff’s assessment of signs on Route 60 that are currently non-conforming is that the majority of currently non-conforming signs on Route 60 become conforming under the new ordinance,” Carter’s July 7 memo states of the revised ordinance.

Under the adopted ordinance, some signs, such as yard sale signs, won’t require a permit.

In certain residentially zoned areas (R-1, R-3 and R-MH) and recreational access areas, identification signs, freestanding signs and sale or rent signs are allowed, depending on their size and height. In agricultural and certain residentially zoned areas (R-2), directional signs, identification signs, free standing signs and wall signs are permitted, depending on their size and height.

In business and industrial agricultural land use zoning districts, directional signs, canopy signs, wall or roof signs and freestanding signs are allowed, again, depending on their size and height.

Sign sizes and heights vary from larger signs allowed in business and industrial zones, while smaller signs are permitted in residential areas, according to the ordinance.