Local News

In tough times, businesses want Cary to relax sign rules

Posted May 15, 2009 5:59 p.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2009 6:48 p.m. EDT

— 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.