Local News

Cary reviews sign policy with online survey

Posted January 5, 2010 12:41 p.m. EST
Updated January 6, 2010 6:10 p.m. EST

— The Town of Cary is seeking public opinion about its current sign regulations through an online survey this month.

The town created the Sign Ordinance Evaluation Task Force, a group of 18 citizens, business owners and town staff, in October to evaluate the current ordinance and give recommendations to the town council about how it can be improved.

Cary Senior Planner Debra Grannan said the goal of the task force is to balance the aesthetics of the town with business owners' needs, especially in a tough economy.

"There was a period of time when it seemed like all the signs in Cary were white or beige and the buildings were similar colors. That's really changed recently," Grannan said.

In recent years, Grannan said, officials have relaxed the ordinance to allow more colors, size variations and information on signs. This included allowing businesses to put 12 pieces of information on a sign – instead of the previous eight pieces.

"We actually had one medical group that actually had to shorten their name in order to put their name on the building," said commercial developer Tom Huff, of Capital Associates.

“I think it is important that people need to find the businesses they go to, and we need to look at that, but also we need to look at trying to keep visual clutter down and being really sensitive to the environment,” said Cary resident Suzanne Davis.

Town officials said the review was initiated prior to and independent of a July 31 dispute over a residential sign.

William Bowden hired someone to paint a sign on his home after he claimed a road-widening project left his once-arboreal yard, at 305 SW Maynard Road, void of trees and with a steep slope that funnels rain water into his home.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation took up the case after the town threatened fines. Town officials contend the message on his home violates size and color limits set by the town’s sign ordinance.

The ACLU filed suit in federal court in November, alleging the town’s sign ordinance violates Bowden’s right to free speech and to petition his government.

The suit asks the court to declare the town’s sign ordinance unconstitutional and to issue a temporary restraining order and an injunction against the town.

Cary officials have agreed to suspend any fines pending the outcome of the lawsuit.