A sign of the times
by Staff Writer
by Katie Orlando
DAVIDSON – Spurred by local business owners, Davidson leaders held a public hearing, Tuesday, Oct. 25, to discuss loosening the town’s strict policies on sign advertisements.
The town’s planning ordinances and design standards were created to keep downtown Davidson uniform, attractive and pedestrian-friendly. But at least one business owner says the ordinances give some stores more visibility than others.
Planning Manager Lauren Blackburn proposed changes to four sections of the ordinance to the town board during a public hearing that, she said, would not change the overall ordinance but clarify and adapt these sections to today’s businesses’ needs.
Blackburn is proposing allowing larger sign areas and giving businesses more options, including reconsidering the town’s ban on neon.
Wall signs are currently allowed to cover 24 square feet. Proposed changes would allow signs to cover five percent of a building façade up to 50 square feet. Signs larger than 50 square feet would be allowed with design review board approval. Requirements for letter height would be removed. Hanging, canopy and freestanding signs would also be allowed to increase in size.
The larger signs, Blackburn said, would be more readable while maintaining the pedestrian-scale design of Davidson.
All historic district signage must still go through design review.
Debate arose over sidewalk signs, as only restaurants are allowed to have easel signs on the sidewalk currently. Blackburn proposed allowing all businesses to have easel or A-frame sidewalk signs, as long as they do not have a preprinted face. The sign content must be changeable – like a chalkboard or whiteboard.
The one business-owner to participate in this public hearing raised objections over not allowing preprinted faces on A-frame signs. He does not want his hair-cutting business to have less visibility than others because he does not have daily specials.
While proposing to increase building sign allotment, Blackburn suggested the board prohibit banners on the town green, or only to allow banners for events happening on the green, only on the day of the event. Banners are currently allowed with a permit from the town’s parks and recreation department.
Eliminating the temporary signs in town, Town Manager Leamon Brice said, will drive use to Davidson’s new online community calendar.
Blackburn also recommended changing uses allowed in the rural planning area, which includes the northeast section of town, as well as some areas in the southeast.
She said the ordinance should be expanded to address rural areas that are not part of subdivisions.
Proposed changes would also expand the definition of agricultural uses to allow sales from the property on which it is produced.
The ordinance would prohibit any temporary structures or land use to sell fireworks. The planning board recommended limiting temporary land use for the sale of Christmas trees to 30 days; Blackburn recommends keeping that regulation at 45 days.
In other board news
• Davidson has a website to promote local events: a community calendar for businesses and nonprofits to share events is now online at www.DavidsonCommunityCalendar.org. Explore Davidson, featuring sample itineraries, maps and business information for visitors can be found at ww.ExploreDavidsonNC.com.
• The board approved a 20 percent surcharge for non-residents over resident prices to take part in parks and recreation programs in Davidson.
Both Cornelius and Huntersville charge non-residents. Residents also will get priority registration.
• Summit Coffee is planning a series of twilight 5k runs through downtown Davidson, Downtown Manager Kim Fleming said. The first run, Nov. 11, will end with a celebration at Summit Coffee, 128 South Main Street, including a band and alcohol. The town granted conditional approval for Summit to obtain a permit to serve alcohol or allow people to drink in the town-owned parking lot between Summit and Ben & Jerry’s. Approval is pending staff review, and will stand as long as no major problems arise.
• Miles Brown presented the $6,500 raised at the third-annual Barnstock music festival that was held Aug. 6 to the Davidson Fire Department Tuesday night.
• North Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers and Police Chief Jeanne Miller presented the Citizen of the Year award to Brick House owner Nick Lyssikatos for outstanding community service. Lyssikatos has provided food from his restaurant for Davidson’s National Night Out, an annual crime- and drug-prevention event.
• Commissioner Margo Williams, Planning Board Chair John Chesser and University of North Carolina at Charlotte professor and planner Deb Ryan made the presentation they gave at the North Carolina chapter of the American Planning Association held last month. Williams presented the findings of Ryan’s students who studied Davidson to publish the book, “Small Town Fit.”
Chesser’s doctor will attest, he said, that he has lower blood pressure now than he did when he moved to Davidson 10 years ago because of how much the town allows him to walk and bike where he needs to go.
“I think we have created a real gem and oasis of walkability here,” he said.