Guilford tones down sign regulation changes

Monday, December 8, 2008 5:56 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — After an outcry from business owners over several changes to the town’s sign regulations, the Planning and Zoning Commission has decided to eliminate the most controversial proposals.

In several nights of public hearings earlier this year, dozens of people expressed opposition to three proposed changes: a requirement that all lighted signs be on only during business hours, a limit on the amount of interior window space that could be covered with signs, and a provision that temporary signs be placed in permanently affixed sign holders.

Several business owners said that the new regulations would make it more difficult for them to advertise their businesses at a time of increasing economic hardship. The Chamber of Commerce also opposed the changes.

After closing the public hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission sent the proposals back to the Zoning Committee for further discussion. The committee eliminated the three controversial items, and Planning and Zoning commissioners last week approved a number of smaller changes intended to make the regulations clearer, more streamlined and more easily enforceable.

Commission Chairwoman Shirley Girioni said at the meeting that the group could revisit the eliminated changes — which had the goal of reducing and improving the appearance of businesses’ signs — at some point in the future. The town’s sign committee and Zoning Enforcement Officer Regina Reed spent about two years working on the changes.

Reed said that the new changes remove the requirements to turn off lighted signs and reduce the amount of window space covered by signs, but leaves the temporary sign holder as an option.

“If somebody created a new shopping plaza, they can utilize that if they so wish,” she said. “We understand why some merchants were afraid of having the permanently affixed sign holder — they were afraid that it would be too far from the street, it wouldn’t be seen, lots of reasons.”

Chamber of Commerce President Jeffrey Beatty thanked the commission members for the changes.

“It was very heartening to see that those comments (at the public hearings) were well received and seriously considered and incorporated into the regulations that are before you tonight,” he said.

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