Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
While a sound barrier wall along Interstate 85 absorbs traffic noise for residents in Fairview Heights and the Concord Village trailer park, it presented a sight problem for a property owner who wanted to erect a billboard.
The Salisbury Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 5-0 Monday to approve a variance that will allow a new billboard to rise high enough so it will not be obstructed by the barrier wall.
Ellen R. Reamer owns Concord Village and the property on the west side of I-85 where the billboard will go. Her son, Salisbury attorney Randy Reamer, represented her Monday at the zoning board hearing along with Jim Bryant, an official with Triad Investment of Greensboro.
Triad’s interests include outdoor advertising.
Reamer is a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and he acknowledged that requesting the variance was “a little bit awkward for me.”
But he said he thought it was a “meritorious request” and that the billboard would provide a good way to pay taxes on Concord Village.
A billboard used to be in this same area, Reamer said, but it was removed during the construction that expanded I-85 from four to eight lanes. That construction included the addition of the sound barrier wall.
The Salisbury Zoning Ordinance, under which the billboard application and the variance for it were requested, allowed a billboard in this area to rise 30 feet above the I-85 road surface.
The 20-foot variance approved Monday will permit the billboard to be 50 feet above the road surface so the sound wall will not block its being seen from I-85.
The sound barrier along this stretch of interstate (on the Wal-Mart side) rises 16 to 24 feet.
A drop in elevation behind the wall also posed a problem. There’s a 15-foot rise in the topography between where the billboard pole would be planted and the interstate.
So the actual height of the pole and two-faced billboard combined will be about 65 feet or roughly six-and-a-half stories.
Zoning board members decided, however, that it fit every criteria for a variance and that special conditions (the sound wall) existed that were not the fault of the property owner.
Reamer noted that in rural areas, the N.C. Department of Transportation allows billboards to be 50 feet above the interstate. Other cities have that standard, too, he said.
“You really need the 50 feet, and 50 feet is a reasonable height,” Reamer said.
The 30-foot-high standard of the old Salisbury Zoning Ordinance seemed more suited to a two-lane highway, not an eight-lane interstate, he added.
There was no opposition to the variance at Monday’s hearing.
The permits for the billboard were applied for in November. A variance was requested in December. Those dates are important because the city’s new Land Development Ordinance went into effect Jan. 1.
Zoning Administrator David Phillips said the new ordinance would not permit the billboard at all. The zoning has changed to “Corridor Mixed Use,” which doesn’t permit any billboards.
In fact, Phillips said, the Land Development ordinance will not allow any new billboards anywhere in Salisbury. Existing billboards will be grandfathered in.
The new ordinance’s restrictions aren’t as harsh as they may sound, Phillips said. Under the old ordinance, there were only two places left where a billboard would be permitted, and one of those was on the Reamer property.
The Reamer billboard met all the other criteria. It was at least 1,000 feet from the next billboard. Its sign faces would not exceed 400 square feet. It was located in property zoned either light- or heavy-industrial, and it was in the Sign District “B” Overlay, which is a 300-foot-wide area along the interstate that allowed billboards.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or