Approves new sign ordinance, agrees to contribute to victim’s advocate
CORNELIUS — Roll up your banner or whip out your checkbook.
The Cornelius Board of Commissioners approved the town’s new sign ordinance Monday night, Nov. 15. Starting Jan. 1, signs in Cornelius that don’t comply with the ordinance will be subject to town action.
Jason Abernethy, Cornelius’ senior planner, said perhaps the most important and successful change to the ordinance is its readability. The document now includes photos on every page with examples of signs that are allowed and those that are not.
“Now it’s not so black and white,” said Commissioner Lynette Rinker, who served on the sign committee. “It’s going to be on a case-by-case basis. We felt like having some flexibility was preferable.”
The ordinance also allows for exceptions, pending Board of Adjustment approval. A business owner with a special need for size, location or sign type may seek such an exception, but the ordinance doesn’t allow exceptions for temporary signs.
The ordinance also changes the town’s banner policy, which drew controversy. Effective Dec. 1, temporary banners for Cornelius businesses will require a $50 permit and must be displayed for at least seven days. The minimum is set to require businesses to put up and take down banners during the week because it’s difficult for the town to inspect banners over the weekend.
Each business can have a banner for a maximum of 63 days — or up to nine separate banner permit applications — per calendar year, and each permit application costs $50. The ordinance only allows businesses to hang one banner at a time.
Rinker said the application for a banner is a same-day process.
Abernethy said he and other town officials will meet with owners to help them understand the new rules and assist them with making their signs comply. Business owners in violation will receive a letter explaining the new rules by mid-December.
After Dec. 31, the violation becomes like any other town violation. The town will send out a warning to first-time offenders, and after 10 days, the owner gets a $100 fine, which can escalate to $500 if not paid.
The board approved the ordinance 4-0. Commissioner Dave Gilroy was absent.
Other board news
Cornelius decided to allocate funds for a victim’s advocate in north Mecklenburg County.
“This we hope will be the next stepping stone to bringing a full-time magistrate to the area,” Mayor Jeff Tarte said.
In April, County Commissioner Karen Bentley told the Davidson town board that if the northern towns wanted to a magistrate for the Lake Norman region, the first step might be to show initiative by bringing in a victim’s advocate.
After hearing a presentation from Kathryn Sellers, the Mooresville-Lake Norman region director for United Family Services, and after months of discussion, the town approved a budget amendment to contribute $15,000 to what would be a victim’s advocate position in north Mecklenburg. The position requires a total of $75,000 – which would cover the advocate’s salary, mileage, computer equipment and program coordination.
Tarte said he hopes the money Cornelius is pledging will encourage the other stakeholders, particularly Huntersville, Davidson and Charlotte, to pitch in.
The board also approved a code of ethics for elected officials, a document which each municipality in the state has to adopt by the end of the year.
Commissioner Jim Bensman questioned whether, under this ethics code, an elected official can appear in an advertising campaign for a private business, referring to Commissioner Dave Gilroy’s recent appearance in an MI-Connection ad.
Town Attorney Bill Brown said, “That could be perceived as the town endorsing a private company.”
The code encourages the officials to follow the laws, uphold independence and propriety, perform the responsibilities dutifully, remain transparent, minimize conflicts of interest and attend a minimum of two hours of ethics training each year.
The Ordnance in it's entirety: