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Chapel Hill Mayor Calls For Suspension Of Sign Ordinance

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CHAPEL HILL — Chapel Hill Mayor Rosemary Waldorf has asked for a suspension of the town's sign ordinance after one restaurant's sign was deemed as too big by zoning inspectors.

The action against Top of the Hill restaurant was based on a provision of Chapel Hill's sign ordinance that allows downtown business to post temporary placards only if they measure 6 square feet or less.

The restaurant banner, which says, "God Bless America, Woe to Our Enemies," exceeded the size limit, said Town Manager Cal Horton and Inspections Director Lance Norris. The decision was made Friday.

"I regret that enforcement of the town's sign ordinances has distracted all of us from focusing on more important community and national issues," Waldorf said in a press release. "In that spirit, I request the members of the Town Council join me in instructing the Town Manager to immediately suspend enforcement of the Town's sign ordinances that regulate or prohibit temporary non-commercial signs on private property, unless such signs are determined, due to structure or location, to constitute a hazard to public safety.

"We recognize that in our country, political speech has greater protection than commercial speech," she said.

Town council members who complained said they objected to the message.

"Personally, I found the language offensive," said council member Bill Strom. "I didn't find the 'God Bless America' offensive and appreciate everyone's show of unity. But the implied tone of 'woe to our enemies' is not the message I have been giving my child."

Council member Jim Ward said he preferred a response by the country to last week's attacks that included "mature restraint."

Council member Kevin Foy said he worried the sign could send the wrong message to Arab-Americans. His brother-in-law is an Arab-American and is "very frightened by the current national mood."

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