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In tough times, businesses want Cary to relax sign rules

Posted May 15, 2009

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— Some Cary entrepreneurs blame the town’s sign ordinance for a drop in business, and want the rules changed while the economy slumps.

Keith Hall, the owner of Chop House Grille near the intersection of High House Road and Davis Drive, said that because of the struggling economy, he placed a banner outside his restaurant to drum up business.

For three months, he said, he saw an increase in the number of new weekly customers.

Then, the town threatened him with a $500-a-day fine if he did not take the sign down, saying it was in violation of a town ordinance. He saw business go down as well.

"We just noticed as soon as we took the sign down that our business dropped 25 to 30 percent on Sundays," Hall said.

Next door to the Chop House at the Greek Fiesta, banners hanging from the awnings that said "Now Open" are now gone, because they too, violated town rules.

Town rules limit the types of signs on nonresidential properties and where they can be placed. For example, they are not allowed in right-of-ways.

"There's a balance between meeting the needs of businesses and desires of residents to maintain a high-level appearance," said Ricky Barker, associate director of the town's planning department.

Business owners say that during the recession, they would like the town to relax the ordinance. Every bit of advertising, they say, is crucial to staying open.

Barker said relaxing the rules could be a slippery slope.

"If you open the door for all businesses, just to have banners up whenever they want, then there would be potential concerns about how that looks on the appearance," Barker said.

"I understand their point, but it's just the point of what's deterring the traffic and what's really destroying the neighborhood," Hall said. "I don't think our sign is doing any of that."

Some Town Council members said they are open to specific recommendations from the business community about signs, but making temporary changes to the ordinance could open the town to lawsuits.

Cary staff reviews feedback about sign ordinances every quarter.

9 Comments

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  • Steve Crisp May 15, 2009

    We used to bank at the Coastal branch at Waverly and went there every day. There is something seriously wrong when sign and other design ordinances will not allow you to distinguish among Red, Hot, & Blue, a Burger King, and Bank of America without having to look very closely through the pathetic trees that they are forced to plant as well.

  • St Ives May 15, 2009

    We can not change the rules for people who own businesses and pay taxes..next people will want to paint their house a color, you know something that their neighbors don't like with a funny name like Asian pink or Mellow yellow. Then you will have people driving cars that haven't been washed and then people will stop taking pride in their yards and the grass will grow above the allowed limit.My head spins when I think of how much of a mess the town will become if we relax this one rule.. better stay the status que and let the last resident please turn out the lights, when he leaves!

  • saturn5 May 15, 2009

    Cary's sign ordinance is part of what makes Cary, Cary. In good times or bad, the most important thing is keeping up appearances. That's why people move to Cary in the first place. They shouldn't forsake part of the town's identity just because there's a recession.

  • Nancy May 15, 2009

    Bland cary, where you can't find a business by LOOKING for it, you have to use a dang GPS. And every fast food place in that god forsaken town has to change their colors to suit the bland atmosphere.

  • pazuzu2u May 15, 2009

    How about taking down the "message boards" and selling them for scrap?
    Or better yet, firing some of the brainiacs that proposed the message boards...

  • xandevalinour May 15, 2009

    doesnt surprise me coming from a town that one time forced my uncle to leave the town because his two toned colored car was bringing down property values by him driving through their neighborhoods.

  • Leonardo May 15, 2009

    The guy SHOULD be fined. Sure, he may have been getting 30% more business on Sundays...but those customers weren't appearing out of thin air. Instead, those customers ended up not going to the other businesses which DID follow the rules.

    The only reason why he got more customers is because HE was the only person breaking the rules. If everyone put up banners, it would end up being a wash for everyone, and you'd be in the exact same situation as if there were no banners at all.

    Sorry, but this guys is just trying to be selfish and be allowed to break the rules to benefit only himself. Fine the heck out of him!

  • walkindogs May 15, 2009

    I live in Cary and am embarrassed about this ridiculous sign rule. Cary can have ugly "dynamic message boards" placed around town and not use them. What an eyesore!! Allow these businesses to post signs during these hard times.

  • AnotherDamnYankee May 15, 2009

    The solution to this is easy.

    Buy an old retired Ryder or Budget rental truck, paint the advertising on it and then have it registered as a personal vehicle. Let a dishwasher, waiter, waitress, etc. drive it and tell them to park it in the parking lot near the road with the advertising facing the road.

    When the Town Of Cary comes by to complain, tell them it’s a private vehicle and to mind their own business.