Local News

Sidewalks Become Latest Battlefield in Growth Saga

Posted September 4, 2007 8:19 p.m. EDT

— Amid the saga of the Triangle's growth, sidewalks, and the displays on them, have become the latest battlefield in the battle between advertising and aesthetics.

In fast-growing Zebulon, planning director Mark Hetrick is working on a proposal that would limit how much sidewalk space businesses could use for signs and other displays. Hetrick said it's a safety issue, with an increasing amount of traffic on Zebulon's streets and sidewalks.

Rows of merchandise commonly line the sidewalk outside Jane Denton's downtown shop, and Denton said they're crucial to the success of her business.

"It's about the only advertising I can do," Denton said.

Store manager Ann Austin said she worries that with scaled-back displays, people will just drive by her downtown thrift shop.

"It would not be good for business, not this kind of business," she said.

Hetrick said the town does not want to ban sidewalk displays but ensure that some space is left for "more or less just pedestrian and handicap accessibility to the sidewalks."

"We've had a few businesses take advantage of the outdoor displays, and we're just trying to get a better handle and regulate," he said.

In Cary, business owners said restrictive sign rules contained in a $33 million street-scape plan are costing them.

Town officials have opposed two fiber-optic trees placed outside the recently opened Havana Grill and a sidewalk sign outside Cookies in Bloom. Town leaders said such advertisements are distracting to drivers and create clutter.

Cary business owners have debated the town's sign rules before. The owner of a sign for South Hills Mall off Interstate 40 that is in violation has fought to keep the billboard pole sign up.

In July, council members rejected a proposal to amend the rule. The businessman said he was trying to come up with an alternative.