Planners approve sign rules

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Planning Commission on Tuesday gave the green light to a host of changes to the city’s sign and banner ordinances.

Among the changes is a provision that allows business owners to apply for a permit to display one banner on a permanent basis. This is a significant departure from former regulations, which did not allow any permanent banners.

The changes still have to be approved by City Council during its Aug. 15 meeting, but they spell good news to business owners, said Claudia Cotton, staff vice president for the Builder Services Division of the Tidewater Builders Association.

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“We appreciate the adjustments that have been made to really reflect current business practices,” Cotton said, also recognizing the “tremendous amount of work” that had gone into researching, fine-tuning and soliciting public input on the changes.

The city first began studying the issue last year, when some business owners complained the ordinances were being selectively enforced.

Under the recommended changes, business owners could apply for the permit to display a banner on a permanent basis. The banner must be constructed of vinyl or other durable material, be hung flush with the wall and kept in good repair. Banners can be switched out, but there is a maximum of one at any time. They cannot contain just a business name or logo. The maximum size of the banner depends on the amount of building frontage facing the public street.

The recommended ordinance does not specify the price of a permit for such a banner.

Other recommended changes include allowing corporate flags in conjunction with other flags, such as the American and state flags. In addition, special events signs, which require a permit, could be displayed for 30 days instead of 21 days.

Furthermore, decorative flags would be expressly permitted under the recommended changes, so long as no more than two flags are displayed per premise.

Finally, several changes are recommended for signs advertising residential subdivisions under construction.

Each subdivision would be permitted one sign per entrance, two wind-driven flags with no advertising copy at the main entrance, and separate signs advertising the sales office, model homes and directions to the model homes.

In other business at the meeting, the commission unanimously approved conditional use permit requests for Triumph in Victory Church II at 257 Carolina Ave., as well as a nursing education center in the Bennett’s Creek Crossing shopping center.

The commission also held its annual election of officers. Howard Benton was re-elected as the chairman, and Arthur Singleton was re-elected as the vice chairman. The committee on ordinances again includes Singleton, Ronnie Rountree, Thomas Savage and William Perry.