Local News

Cary Town Council Takes on Sign Debate

Posted July 22, 2007 7:49 p.m. EDT

— A debate over appearance is heading to the Cary Town Council.

Last July, town leaders ordered all pole signs to come down, because they were deemed unsightly.

Three businesses still have them displayed, including South Hills Mall. The owner wants to display a new sign that can change messages, but allowing it would mean changing a town standard.

Only three types of businesses in Cary are allowed to have changeable copy signs – movie theaters, schools and gas stations, because they display changing information that’s vital to their business.

South Hills Mall advertises specials and sales on its message board. Business owners say people are definitely getting the message.

“They’ll come in, [and] because I know my customers so well, I’ll ask, ‘How’d you know about us?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I saw your sign,’” said Annmarie Rocheleau, owner of Carolina Sunglasses.

South Hills is asking the town council to amend the rules to allow its new sign, but town staffers are not endorsing it.

“We couldn’t write an ordinance just for this one sign to exist without opening the door for other business owners to have that,” said Ricky Barker, associate planning director.

The town council will vote on the amendment change for the South Hills sign at its meeting Thursday. South Hills’ property manager Bob Dascombe said he hopes the town will allow it.

“Through having meaningful dialogue, we hope they’ll see this is a unique circumstance and there’s a tasteful way to find a solution,” he said.

As for the other two pole signs still up in Cary, one business plans to take down its sign once it gets the special equipment needed to remove it. The other business hired a lawyer and might take the issue to court.

Businesses that don’t take down the pole signs face fines of $500 per day, but town officials said their main goal is to get the signs down, not collect money from fines. Officials said they are willing to work with businesses to make fines a last resort.