Fayetteville to Pay for Sign Slipup
Posted November 30, 2007
Fayetteville, N.C. — City officials on Friday backed off attempts to force a small business owner to pay to remove a sign recently approved by inspectors.
Pete Porreco spent about $6,200 to erect a lighted, 32-square-foot sign on a 14-foot pole outside his remodeling business, Home Exteriors, on Raeford Road in west Fayetteville.
City inspectors approved the sign, which was put up by A-1 Design of Hope Mills, in October. Three weeks later, someone from the city stopped at Porreco's business and ordered him to remove the sign because it violated zoning rules.
"He told me the sign looked good, but it needs to come down," Porreco said. "I asked him who is going to pay for it. He asked me if I was serious. Yeah, I'm serious."
The inspector apparently made a mistake and approved a sign that was too large for the neighborhood.
The 6800 block of Raeford Road is zoned P-4, a professional residential zoning that requires new businesses to blend with the existing neighborhood. Signs are limited to 6 square feet and can't be more than 6 feet tall.
City officials said Porreco would be fined $500 a day for the out-of-compliance sign until it was removed, a decision that incensed Porreco.
“I don’t want to sound like a rebel without a cause, but anybody – a normal human being – doesn’t want to be taken advantage of and lose $6,000,” he said.
Some neighbors said they didn't mind the Home Exteriors sign.
"You need a big sign as a business for your customers to be able to see where you are and slow down to pull into your driveway," Cynthia Harris said.
Across the street from Porreco's business, Loyd Auman Elementary School has a sign almost exactly the same size, and bigger, flashier signs are outside retailers at a nearby shopping center.
Frank Simpson, city inspections director, said the other areas have different zoning regulations that existed before Fayetteville annexed the neighborhood.
“There are signs in the surrounding area that do meet what was the county code at the time,” Simpson said.
Because the city inspector mistakenly gave Porreco the go-ahead to erect his sign, Simpson said, the city would forgo the daily fines and reimburse Porreco for the cost of the sign. But he said the sign still must come down.
"We feel we're responsible for the mistake, and we'll make it right," Simpson said. "He's not going to be out any money that was due to our mistake."
He said his staff reviews thousands of sign permits every year and mistakes like this are rare.