Raleigh City Council lists possible sign rule problems

ccampbell@newsobserver.comMay 24, 2014 

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City planners conducted an informal survey of 230 businesses throughout Raleigh and found that nearly a quarter would likely be in violation of the new rules. Fire Wok at City Plaza on Fayetteville Street, seen here, is a business that would have illegal window signs under new rules.

CHUCK LIDDY — cliddy@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— A committee to review city sign rules hasn’t been appointed yet, but the Raleigh City Council already has a laundry list of concerns for the group to consider.

A group of three City Council members is still working to select 10 people for the committee. Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin wants the group to look at a variety of issues – well beyond the initial controversy over proposed limitations on window signs.

“I don’t feel that there has been clear direction as to what the committee is going to be doing,” Baldwin said.

In addition to the window sign rules, the council will ask the committee to review profile signs – the signs at shopping center entrances that list stores. At Seaboard Station downtown, Baldwin said, “there’s no way for businesses to communicate that they’re there. That’s why you see the Ace Hardware truck parked out there.”

Also on Baldwin’s list: Raleigh’s rule that limits some sign designs to a choice of three colors and limits on directional signs at hospitals that some say make emergency rooms hard to find.

Baldwin wants the committee to consider a process for unique sign proposals to get a waiver from the city’s arts or appearance commissions. “I keep hearing from young people and young business owners that they would like an opportunity to be more innovative and creativity, and there’s no way to do that,” she said.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane ultimately voted in support of the list, but she said the main goal of the committee is to address window signs. “The feedback we’ve gotten from staff is they did not have the resources or the budget” to review the entire sign ordinance, she said.

Baldwin said the city should consider hiring a consultant for the process to lighten the load on city planners.

Councilman Thomas Crowder cast the lone vote against the committee’s to-do list. “This is about community values and not the council’s values,” he said.

Crowder said he’s heard feedback that Raleigh’s current rules are “pretty lenient.” But Baldwin replied that that’s “the opposite of what I’m hearing.”

The council will vote on appointments for the committee at its next meeting June 3. So far, council members have nominated a list of 21 that will need to be culled to 10. Among the nominees: Downtown Raleigh Alliance head David Diaz, Shop Local Raleigh director Jennifer Martin, Cameron Park Neighborhood Association president Neil Riemann, costume shop owner Louie Bowen, and seven other business owners.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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