July 12, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Ordinance Amending Chapter 6 – Development Standards – and Chapter 8 – Nonconformities – of the Unified Development Ordinance Regarding Off-Premises Signs

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached ordinance amendment that would essentially grandfather the existing off-premises signs that are nonconforming in Emerald Isle in perpetuity.  Because the attached ordinance amendment would allow the new Bogue Inlet Pier off-premises sign that was installed earlier this year, it also repeals a 2015 provision that allows a business located more than 1,000 ft. from Emerald Drive to place an off-premises directional sign. 

As noted in the attached memo from Josh Edmondson, Town Planner, there are a total of 9 sign locations that would be affected by the ordinance amendment.  A map of the 9 locations, along with pictures of the existing signs is attached.  The Board should note that the ordinance amendment is written to allow any such signs that were in place as of January 1, 2006 to be removed, replaced, and/or improved, and the use of this cutoff date allows the placement of the new Bogue Inlet Pier sign and also the re-establishment of the Camp Ocean Forest off-premises sign across from Fairview Drive.  In addition to these two signs, the other affected signs are as follows:

  • two sign locations for Island Harbor Marina near the bridge,

  • the Islander Suites sign near Islander Drive,

  • the Keller-Williams / Ward Shore Builders sign near the new Transportation Impact building,

  • the Island Harbor Marina sign near Woodpecker Lane,

  • the SALT / Flipperz sign near K&V Plaza, and

  • the Coastal Awnings sign near the Post Office.

Four of these existing off-premises signs are in relatively good condition, and are not likely to be damaged more than 50% in the future (which would prohibit replacement under the Town’s current ordinance).  Three of the signs (the Island Harbor Marina signs) have attractive sign facings, but somewhat compromised structural supports, and the Town’s current ordinance does not allow the sign owner to improve the structural supports.  As a result, they are likely to remain in the current condition with the current appearance for several more years until they are damaged more than 50%, if that ever occurs.  One sign (the SALT / Flipperz sign) is missing two sign panels that cannot be replaced under the Town’s current ordinance, and the sign would likely look nicer with all four panels in place.  Finally, as requested of the Board by the owner of the Camp Ocean Forest sign, with the inclusion of the January 1, 2006 date this sign could be re-established.

As you know, the Town is continually seeking to improve the aesthetic appearance of the Town, and all of the little aesthetic improvements eventually add up over time.  As discussed by the Board in recent months, a key goal of the attached ordinance amendment is to promote a more attractive appearance of these signs.  The owners of the Island Harbor Marina signs and the SALT / Flipperz sign have verbally committed to improve the appearance of these signs if the attached ordinance amendment is approved to provide that opportunity.  Understandably, these signs are important to the owners of all 9 sign locations, and they would obviously appreciate the future ability to replace them as necessary or desired in order to continue to derive benefits from these signs in the future.  The Board and the public should note that the ordinance amendment would not allow any new off-premises signs in Emerald Isle in the future, as has been the Town’s policy for many years.

The Board should note that separate concerns have been raised about the perception that two of the signs affected by the attached ordinance amendment are advertising businesses not located in Emerald Isle.  A separate provision in the Town’s sign ordinance requires that all signs in Emerald Isle advertise businesses in Emerald Isle only, and that provision has been in place for many years.  The Coastal Awnings sign advertises a business that once operated in Emerald Isle, but that we believe no longer has an Emerald Isle location.  Josh Edmondson and I are currently considering whether or not to consider this sign facing as nonconforming and allow it to remain, or to require it to be removed in the near future.  Additionally, multiple business in Emerald Isle have inquired about the Keller-Williams real estate sign, and have noted that Keller-Williams is not located in Emerald Isle.  The owner of the sign has communicated to the Town that Keller-Williams has leased office space from him on Islander Drive, however, it does not appear that much activity is occurring at that location.  Josh Edmondson and I are currently working through this issue also.

As noted in Josh Edmondson’s memo, the Planning Board did not concur with this staff-requested ordinance amendment.  After discussing this issue with the Board of Commissioners in recent months, the Board indicated its support for this concept and directed staff to schedule it for consideration at a future Board meeting.  A public hearing is required prior to Board consideration of the attached ordinance amendment, and the Board may formally consider the attached ordinance amendment after the public hearing. 

Josh Edmondson and I look forward to discussing this issue with the Board at the July 12 meeting.