Change sign or pay fine, Cary tells man

Staff WriterNovember 13, 2009 

Town officials pressured David Bowden on Thursday, saying they will levy fines against the Cary man if he doesn't remove or tone down a bright protest sign painted in huge, orange letters on the front of his house.

He has seven days.

In a statement, town officials say attempts to negotiate with Bowden have failed to resolve an impasse that started in July, when he had "Screwed By The Town of Cary" painted on his home at 305 SW Maynard Road.

"Meetings with Mr. Bowden over the last several months have failed to resolve the sign issue," the town statement said. "And the town continues to receive complaints from residents about the situation."

Bowden, who says his house was damaged by runoff caused by town road construction, refuses to budge. The slogan is a free speech issue, he says, a stance that has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

"They [are] still trying to violate my constitutional rights," Bowden said Thursday. "I'll have the young lady from the ACLU explain it to them. I'm not going to do it."

Cary officials cited Bowden for a zoning violation on July 31, saying the sign violated the town's strict appearance ordinances. But the town didn't initiate fines, which start at $100 and escalate to $500 per day, as it tried to mediate the dispute.

Town officials offered to install a trench drain and new drainage pipe to re-route water away from Bowden's home. Bowden declined the offer and issued his own ultimatum: The sign wouldn't come down until the town buys his house. Bowden also declined third-party mediation, according to a town statement issued Thursday.

Bowden has seven days to remove the sign or bring it into compliance with the town ordinance by reducing its size or changing its color, according to a zoning violation notice issued by the town. Bowden has 30 days to appeal.

"We've made a very strong effort to help him understand how he can express any sentiment about any topic in a way that's consistent with being a Cary citizen," said Susan Moran, the town's spokeswoman. "... We are not asking him to change what he's saying, we're just asking him to change the size and color."

vdehamer@nando.com or 919-460-2608

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