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Merchants discuss revised advertising guidelines

Several downtown merchants took part in a public workshop last week to discuss with the town’s Historic Zoning Commission the rules regarding signage and outdoor furnishings.
The meeting was held to inform merchants of the town’s plans for stricter enforcement of its existing advertising standards and guidelines in the historic district now that the downtown improvement project is nearing its end.
“This is not an attempt to make all of (downtown) uniform. We really don’t want it all uniform,” said Dr. William Kennedy, HZC chair. “We want to provide the ability for each property owner to be creative. We want creativity and individuality within a set of guidelines.”
For the last year, a subcommittee of the HZC has been working to revise the town’s advertising standards and guidelines. A draft of the revised guidelines was handed out to those in attendance at the Oct. 25 meeting.
In addition to revising some of the wording in the existing guidelines, the group added four additional sections to deal with open signs, portable signs, flags and banners and exterior furnishings.
“It’s the same authority the Historic Zoning Commission has had for over 42 years,” Kennedy said.
A handful of business and property owners expressed concern over the regulation of open signs at their businesses.
Angela Harris, owner of Fellowship Quilters, was among those wondering whether she would need to buy a different sign.
Harris and others also argued clocks indicating what time a shop owner will return to the store are valuable to downtown businesses and should be allowed.
Property owner Jackie Roach was adamant that clocks be permitted on open signs.
“A clock is important. The bakery uses theirs every day,” she said. “People need to know (when the store is going to reopen).”
The guidelines do not prohibit such clocks, but recommend the type of open sign used be less commercial and more historic in nature. Whether a clock is included, Kennedy said, is of no concern to the HZC.
“We don’t have a desire to make things impractical,” Kennedy said.
Roach also argued that the rules should be adhered to by every merchant, and not just a few.
Town Administrator Bob Browning said the town is aware of the issues of noncompliance currently in existence.
He said leaders have not been strictly enforcing the rules because businesses were already struggling due to the major downtown construction project.
Browning promised the revised rules would be enforced across the board once they are put in place.
The revised guidelines have not been adopted yet and last week’s meeting was an effort by the HZC to get input from downtown merchants prior to the changes becoming effective.
The HZC will send the guidelines to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen with that group’s advice before they return to the HZC for final adoption.