They blame new employees who were not aware that strawberry growers have been granted a special exception to the ordinance. That's little comfort to farmers who say after a hard freeze this spring, they can't afford to lose any business.
While we usher in spring by picking strawberries, Cary town workers have been doing a little picking of their own. Their harvest is made up of what they say are illegally placed signs, some of them belong to strawberry farmers.
Farmers don't know why their signs were taken. The controversy was supposed to be resolved after the mayor granted a special exception for agriculture signs last year.
"Last year we were allowed to have the signs up," Karen Copeland says, "and again this year, we had not been told any different from the town of Cary."
Strawberry grower Sue Phillips says it makes her pretty angry. She believes it's just another fight when all she wants to do is sell strawberries.
At first the town said the signs were removed because they were nailed to telephone poles, a violation of state law. But actually the the signs were fastened to the ground with stakes. Now, town leaders say some workers were not aware of the exemption.
"So it's our mistake," says Jeff Ulma, Cary Planning Director. "We've contacted the folks and let them know that they're okay to proceed the same way they did last year."
The town is rewriting their sign ordinance. The new version will address agricultural signs, and the public will be allowed to have a hand in writing the law. If you're unsure, the rule of thumb is check with the ordinance.
The town is very strict about off-premises signs and allows very few exceptions.