Sign ordinance was a battle worth fighting

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2011

By Randy Hemann
For the Salisbury Post
The Regulator Rebellion of the 1760s was an effort to rid North Carolina of tyrannical and corrupt leaders.
Recently as I read bloggers on the Salisbury Post website rebelling (most anonymously) in cyberspace over sign ordinances related to one downtown business, I was reminded of how far we as a city have improved our appearance, thanks to the efforts of community leaders before us. In the 1970s and 1980s, battles over the sign ordinance were vicious. In the end, those who were concerned with community appearance won, and because of the courage of those who sought reasonable regulation, Salisbury is a much more attractive and vibrant city. A quick look at East Innes, our primary connection to the rest of the world, bears out the fact that good design and improved business go hand in hand, as the adjacent photos show.
The same can be said of Downtown Salisbury. In 2001 when a local historic district was adopted and regulations concerning appearance were increased, a few property owners held on to the belief that further regulation would slow development. To the contrary, Downtown Salisbury has witnessed more than $54 million in investment since the district was put in place and reasonable standards were adopted.
The mantra that regulation slows development may be true concerning some types of regulation, but the sensible regulation of design and appearance has proven to be a tool to enhance development. Developers invest in areas where there is stability and certainty. The reasonable regulation of design and appearance offers stability that allows those investing in real estate the understanding that their investment is protected from devaluation caused by poorly designed and poorly executed development. Aside from our experience, there are multiple studies that also bear out the relationship between good design and increased/improved economic development.
One need only drive up Innes Street or stroll through downtown to see that Salisbury benefits economically because of the work of many of the pioneers who understood early on that reasonable regulation is good for business. I would like to personally thank the elected leaders, appointed boards and commissions, city staff and the downtown leadership, during the 1970s and 80s, for their vision, foresight and political courage. Salisbury is a better place because of them.
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Hemann is executive director of Downtown Salisbury, Inc.