March 8, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Proposed Sign Ordinance Amendments – Non-Profit Event Signs

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to formally consider an amendment to the Town’s sign ordinance (in the Unified Development Ordinance) that would implement changes for temporary non-profit event signs that have been discussed by the Board several times in recent months.  In addition, in order to maintain consistency among various temporary sign regulations, the Board will also formally consider an amendment (in Chapter 6 of the Code of Ordinances) that pertains to yard sale and garage sale signs.  A public hearing was previously conducted at the February 9 regular meeting. 

Ordinance Amending Chapter 10 – Definitions and Rules of Interpretation – of the Unified Development Ordinance Regarding Non-Profit Event Signs

As you recall from previous Board discussion, the proposed changes are presented in lieu of electronic community information signs that the Town had considered installing along NC 58 that were ultimately not able to be permitted by NCDOT.  The attached ordinance amendment includes new regulations regarding the material, quality, and placement of temporary signs for non-profit events in the NC 58 right of way (and other Town right of ways), and seeks to balance  1) the strong desire to support and promote these events with  2) community aesthetics goals and  3) a desire to be consistent with commercial sign ordinances in the Town.

The Board discussed the proposed amendment regarding temporary non-profit event signs most recently at the February 9 meeting, and the attached ordinance amendment (March 8 version) is mostly identical to the February 9 version.  The March 8 version incorporates additional input received at and following the February 9 meeting, and seeks to address three concerns raised by the Board and members of the community.  To summarize, the March 8 version accomplishes the following, with the specific changes included in the March 8 version highlighted in bold below:

  • the Town would continue to support these beneficial non-profit events,

  • banners would no longer be permitted, which is consistent with the Town’s current ordinance prohibiting banners from being used by commercial businesses in Emerald Isle, and which would eliminate the often unsightly appearance of flapping banners,

  • the non-profit event signs would be required to either be neatly prepared or professionally fabricated; the Board should note that this provision has been amended in the March 8 version to also allow non-professionally fabricated signs that include stencil, commercially fabricated letters or numbers, or other methods that result in a professional appearance (in an effort to minimize sign costs for non-profit event organizers),

  • the maximum size of the signs would be reduced to 24 sq. ft. from the current 32 sq. ft., however, only 3 signs could be that large; the Board should note that this provision has been amended in the March 8 version to better incorporate Planning Board preferences,

  • an additional 5 signs that are essentially the size of typical campaign signs (up to 6 sq. ft.) would be allowed, resulting in a net increase in the number of permitted non-profit event signs from 6 to 8,

  • the signs would be required to be removed within 3 days after the event, as opposed to 10 days, and

  • clarifying language has been added to provide an opportunity for ONLY the immediately adjacent property owner to have the sign removed from the street right-of-way if desired (to be consistent with the Town’s campaign sign ordinance provisions).

It is important to note that the attached ordinance amendment would not allow banners to simply be mounted firmly on a rigid (i.e., plastic, metal, wood, vinyl) surface and be displayed.  The Town’s current sign ordinance does not allow commercial businesses to utilize banners in this way.  If the Board is interested in allowing this practice, I recommend that the Board also amend the Town’s ordinance for commercial businesses in the same manner. 

The Board should also note that, while NCDOT frowns on the placement of such temporary signs in the NC 58 right of way, I believe they will continue to be lenient if the signs are in place for a very limited duration and promote a “good cause”.  Additionally, although there is great uncertainty about this recent ruling, I am hopeful that the proposed amendments do not run afoul of a recent US Supreme Court ruling (Reed v. Town of Gilbert, AZ) because they allow messages for a wide variety of special events (the Gilbert case dealt with the differential treatment of church signs).

Ordinance Amending Chapter 6 – Building Regulations – of the Code of Ordinances Regarding Yard Sale, Garage Sale Signs

As noted at the February 9 meeting, the Planning Board discussion included comments regarding yard sale and garage sale signs.  These signs are not regulated under the Unified Development Ordinance, but rather are included with the Town’s overall regulations for yard sales and garage sales included in Chapter 6 of the Code of Ordinances. 

In an effort to promote consistency among the Town’s various sign ordinances, the attached ordinance amendment to Chapter 6 simply adds:

  • an identical provision to provide an opportunity for the immediately adjacent property owner to have the yard sale or garage sale sign removed from the street right-of-way if desired, and

  • a new requirement that signs for yard sales and garage sales may not be placed earlier than 3 days prior to the sale (the current ordinance includes a requirement for the signs to be removed soon after the sale ends, but no time frame prior to the sale).

    The Board should note that yard sale and garage sale signs are not required to be professionally fabricated, and are permitted within the street right-of-way.

    Josh Edmondson and I look forward to discussing the proposed amendments with the Board at the March 8 meeting.