City leaders are mulling regulations on storefront windows that allow more signs than an earlier proposal, but some business owners and council members still think they go too far.
The recommendation that businesses could cover no more than half their window space with posters or other signs – made Tuesday by an appointed task force – allows more leeway than the 30 percent requirement earlier this year.
Business owners and some council members, however, say any window restriction goes too far. “We’re actually going inside the business” with regulations, Councilman John Odom said. “It’s like going inside your home.”
A special committee made up of members of Raleigh’s appearance and planning commissions will review the revised ordinance.
Richard Gardner, who owns ComedyWorx on Peace Street, said his business could suffer if he can’t use the windows for advertising. He presented a petition with 300 signatures opposing the change.
“Yes, many other cities have regulated window signs, but they were not ranked by Forbes as the number one place for small businesses,” Gardner said. “Signs are the most effective yet least expensive form of advertising for a small business.”
City Councilman Thomas Crowder has voiced support for the new restrictions, and he says fears about sign regulations in the past have been unfounded.
“We are the number one place to live in the nation,” he said. “It is because we cleaned up our act. We don’t have a lot of the visual clutter that a lot of towns deal with.”
The window sign rule was among several new regulations recommended Tuesday:
Ads on wheels: Raleigh would ban signed cars and trucks that serve as advertising from being parked near a public street. Cars fitting that description couldn’t be parked within 40 feet of a street, and trucks or trailers couldn’t come within 100 feet. The ban wouldn’t apply to vehicles “used in direct connection with the business,” such as delivery trucks.
Window lights: The city would ban strands of lights and neon tube lights in windows located less than 100 feet from a residential neighborhood. There’s an exception for lights attached to approved signs, and the ban wouldn’t apply to winter holiday displays. “This was brought up from residents who feel that lighting was becoming a nuisance in residential areas … and could be distracting to drivers,” task force chairwoman Jennifer Martin said.
More colors: Raleigh currently limits outdoor signs to three colors as well as black and white. The task force wants to allow seven colors to allow for creativity, Martin said.
Task force member and developer Bill Mullins said he supports the recommendation. “What’s being presented is a good compromise,” he said, adding that sign rules haven’t hurt his business in the past. “I realized that all my competitors had to conform to them as well. It was back to whether we had a better product, a better location.”
But while the 11-member task force has debated the proposal for months, City Council members weren’t ready to vote Tuesday. Instead, the recommendations will now head to a special committee made up of planning commission and appearance commission members.
“Those bodies bring an interesting and different perspective to this issue,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.