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Cary’s sign ordinance at center of new debate

Posted September 30, 2010
Updated October 1, 2010

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— Not even two years old, the Cathedral Community Christian Center Church is still making a name for itself.

Pastor James Williams says one way to do that is with a sign out front.

“It’s just a part of the ministry,” he said.

A few weeks ago, he replaced the old sign with a similar one. The only exception is his photo is on the new sign.

That photo is why the Town of Cary is wanting Williams to take down the sign or move it some place else.

“Once I put my black face on the side of this (sign), the Town, it became a problem,” Williams said.

Town officials say race has nothing to do with their request for Williams to take down the sign.

“We need to ensure that everyone throughout the town follows our standards,” Cary’s associate planning director, Ricky Barker, said. “Our standards, of course, are related to the aesthetics of our community.

Barker says Williams is violating a town ordinance that restricts the number of colors there can be on a sign to four. By adding his picture, Williams put his sign over the color limit.

Cary’s sign ordinance at center of new debate Cary’s sign ordinance at center of new debate

“We want to spend as much time as we can to educate those business owners and organizations of what they can do,” Barker said.

Barker says the sign is OK as long as it is not permanently displayed out front.

In this case, Williams keeps it on a trailer that he plans to keep at the church and keep visible.

“I plan to fight this,” Williams said.

Williams says he plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.

Town officials says Williams did not get a permit for the sign. If it's not down by Friday, town leaders told Williams he is subject to fines.

This isn’t the first dispute the town has had with a Cary resident over a sign.

Last year, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the town, challenging its assessment of fines against resident David Bowden, who spay-painted a protest on the front of his home.

The town issued a notice against Bowden notifying him that the message violates size and color limits set by the town’s ordinance.

In June, a Cary resident advertised his love for the town with his own sign. Officials also found him to be in violation of the ordinance.


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  • I have Joy Oct 11, 2010

    I would like to thank everyone for their comments about this particular situation. I think that it is important to know all the fact in this case, so that a clear picture can be seen. That is the reason why I am just responding to the comments that were made about me and this sign.
    Q1. Why would I put my picture up there?
    A1. In ministry people do not, for the most part, connect with buildings, cars, and sometimes even family. However, the Pastor that is who they connect with most of the time. For example, most everyone knows who Reverend Oral Roberts is, however hardly anyone can tell you what his church looks like if you don' t attend there. There are a lot of people that know me as well but do not know that they are passing by my church until they see the picture up. My goal in life is that God be glorified in my good works here on earth.
    Q2. Why would I fight the town of Cary about a sign?
    A2. The sign is not regulated by the town of Cary, because it is on my personal pro

  • rixida Oct 5, 2010

    Thats the dumbest rule I've ever heard. What bunch of quacks made that one up? However, it is vary egotistical of him to put his face on a sign for the church.

  • geosol Oct 1, 2010

    Very revealing to read the comments from the right wingers who previously railed against Cary's sign ordinance, but now, for some strange reason, think that this particular case is different and that this guy should submit to the rules they were once told were "opressive" and "un-American". Wonder why they changed their tune in this case?

  • Ckimoo Oct 1, 2010

    I've lived in Cary for 23 years and one of things I like most about it is the restrictive appearance ordinances. It keeps the town from looking like a cluttered mess.

    And beige isn't the only color allowed. Shopping centers have certain appearance standards so that all the stores are not visually competing for attention which can be annoying when you are a resident and have to drive around Cary. I don't want a bunch of advertising competing for my attention.

    The Pastor's sign looks terrible. It looks like a giant business card for a real estate agent.

    It's it a little arrogant to put your own image on a sign for a church? And I assume he used his parishioners donations to have the sign made. And now, he wants to play the race card?!!! Give me a break!

  • soyousay Oct 1, 2010

    aj..That's just the way it is!

    not really...laws are not immutable, they can be changed

  • kikinc Oct 1, 2010

    Okay, then break the law if you want. You'll deal with the consequences.

  • ajmac09 Oct 1, 2010

    if you live in the City, you have to abide by the law. It doesn't vary from person to person. Even if the law sucks, deal with it and change your sign accordingly. This isn't a race issue! If it had a picture of any other person on the planet, they'd do the same thing if it exceeds the 4 color limit. That's just the way it is!

  • soyousay Oct 1, 2010

    ki..no one has the right to disregard it because they feel it's unjust

    yes you do..you get to protest it maybe break it even to force it to be reconsidered...doesn't always work out to well, and generally there's a legal consequence or two...but really, really in this country you do get to do that

  • map1agmachining Oct 1, 2010

    Put your sign on I-95 next to Pedro. I don't think Cary would have a problem with that Pastor Williams!

  • OGE Oct 1, 2010

    If he changes the sign to where he has on a black tie and suit, white shirt and make the background only one color it will be black, white, brown and whatever color the background is.

    Of course that's waay to simple for Wiliams to think of.