The Statesville City Council has approved the use of hand-held and mascot signs, rejecting the planning board's recommendation to keep a ban on the signs.
The signs are approved if they are located outside the right-of-way, they do not impede traffic and the user has permission from the property owner. The 7-1 decision, rendered in April, revoked last summer's ban.
In approving the new regulations, the council also rejected the staff's recommendation to impose a $150 annual permit fee for the use of such signs.
At a meeting of the planning board in March, Justin Palmer, who had been holding a mascot sign for a local Cash for Gold business, complained that the ban on hand-held signs hurts businesses that do not have frontage on main roads and rely on the signs to attract customers.
A majority of planning board members, however, preferred to keep the ban that was adopted as part of the city's Unified Development Code in 2010. They said then that the signs created a negative image of the city. They suggested the city council let the ban stand.
But after protracted debate, the council members decided to permit the signs without any fees. Mayor Pro Tem Michael Johnson was the lone dissenter.
Regulations on hand-held signs vary widely among area municipalities. They are permitted in Charlotte, Mooresville and Hickory but banned in many others, including Cornelius, Davidson, Troutman and Huntersville.
"Cornelius considers these types of signs to be off-premise advertising, which are prohibited," said Planning Director Karen Floyd.
Some of the areas that ban the advertising signs, however, make exceptions for charitable events such as a church fundraising car wash.
Other areas are struggling to find a regulatory compromise on hand-held signs. For example, the city council in Peachtree, Ga., about 32 miles southwest of Atlanta, is in the midst of a similar debate.
"We all agree something must be done about for-profit signs," said Peachtree Mayor Don Haddix. "I support a complete ban, because anything less is a nightmare to enforce, and (a ban) treats all businesses equally. But some on the council are still debating."
Bills said to threaten state, local relations
Also in April, the Statesville City Council adopted a resolution expressing concern that some bills under consideration in the N.C. General Assembly could "threaten the fabric of the relationship between state and local government."
In a report to the council, City Manager Rob Hites expressed specific concern over proposals that would seriously curtail the ability of cities and towns to annex property. Police Chief Tom Anderson also warned that a consolidation bill under review in Raleigh would eliminate the Iredell County District Attorney position, a post held by Sarah Kirkman.