How many people does it take to put up a sign? In Charlotte, the answer is a city councilman, the city manager, and a multi-departmental government task force.
Nancy Newton wants to put up a sign for her family-run farmer’s market, Newell Farmer’s Market.
“We wanted the signs up to help people find where we are,” Newton says.
Newton founded the market nine years ago, at what was then the intersection of Rocky River Road West and Old Concord Rd.
“When we started the market we had a lot of traffic, a lot of visibility,” says Newton. “When they closed the road, we lost that traffic, lost that visibility.”
After the closure, Newton says they stood signs up about a half-mile away at the closest intersection, only on Saturdays—when they are open—but, the market received a notice from the city those signs are illegal. It violates the city’s 75-page sign ordinance.
“Historically, sign ordinances, they are crazy kinds of beasts to manage,” says assistant city manager Ann Wall, who says she has encountered similar conundrums in previous jobs in Rocky Mount and Florida.
The ordinance, which governs all things signs, has to regulate what businesses can and cannot post.
“It is that balance of how you help one group, the businesses, and how you help the public so they don’t have to see thousands of signs,” says Wall.
The ordinance spells out all size, shape, and height requirements, depending on sign type. It comes with illustrations. And, it bans roof signs, flashing, fluttering, swinging or rotating signs (other than time and temperature), and signs that are off-the-premises, like at the Newell Farmer’s Market.
City officials are working to create an exception that will work for the farmer’s market.
In an e-mail to Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes, city manager Ron Carlee wrote:
“Unfortunately, signs are a legal morass wherein I have never found a simple way to do anything. Maybe this can be a first. :)”
Wall is leading a group of planning, zoning, and neighborhood service officials looking for a solution.
Ultimately, any change to the ordinance will require a vote from city council.