"Cary's very beautiful, and that's not very beautiful," resident Joan Wanveer said.
The town put up nine message boards along major roads to transmit information about traffic congestion or Amber alerts. Until the system is fully operational, the signs are flashing test messages such as, "Welcome to Cary."
Two weeks ago, the Town Council approved spending $14,000 to spruce up the signs to stanch growing opposition to them. The plan calls for painting their metal support poles green and planting shrubs around their control boxes.
"I don't think putting anything there is going to make them attractive," driver Kathleen Carter said.
Last weekend, vandals spray-painted the word "violation" on the control box of one message board. The graffiti was a dig at Cary's policy of placing violation stickers on signs that break town rules, including signs supported by poles.
A group of residents has formed Citizens Against Ugly Sign Eyesores, or CAUSE, to demand that the town pull down the message boards.
"They're an eyesore right now," resident Beth Hartley said of the message boards.
Town officials have their own message for residents: Give the signs a break and a chance to prove their worth.
"We haven't experienced yet the chance to benefit from a detour to an accident, to see that Amber alert. Those are the purposes those signs are there," Town Councilwoman Marla Dorrell said.