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Rules on political signs may be changed

SALISBURY — Some parts of the city’s sign regulations could be tweaked in relation to political signs, electronic message boards and banners.
As for political signs, Senior Planner Preston Mitchell reported Tuesday, a committee is looking at matching many of Salisbury’s requirements with existing provisions in state law.
The committee will recommend the maximum size of a political sign be increased from 5 square feet to 6 square feet. Political signs also will be able to go up “30 days” before an election.
The current wording says “four weeks” before an election, but the 30-day rule would match the state’s provisions.
Political signs will still have to be removed no more than 10 days after an election. This matches the state law.
As of now, political signs in Salisbury have to be placed on private property, not on city rights of way. The committee does not want to change that provision.
The city law also says political signs should not be attached to a pole, tree, fence, rock or another sign.
“However, political signs may be placed on public property, specifically polling places, only on Election Day,” new wording in the ordinance will state.
The committee looking at these possible changes consists of two members each from the Community Appearance Commission, Historic Properties Commission and Planning Board, along with city planners.
Mitchell said the committee’s recommendations will be going to the city’s Technical Review Committee March 21, the Planning Board in April and back to Salisbury City Council for final approval in May.
Councilman Pete Kennedy said he fears there will be confusion between the city and state laws about political signs in public rights of way. Political signs are allowed in state-maintained rights of way during the 30 days before an election.
A provision in the city’s sign ordinance for electronic signs was originally drafted for only colleges and universities in 2009. Livingstone and Catawba colleges erected electronic message signs soon after that provision was added.
A proposed change would add the general term “schools” and expands the possible inclusion of electronic signs to all zoning districts.
But according to a committee recommendation, the electronic message boards will have to be incorporated into a ground monument (not a pole) of no more than 5 feet in height.
The message screen also will not be permitted to display motion pictures or video, because of the distractions to motorists they could cause. Messages have to be fixed a minimum of one minute at a time.
The committee has yet to make a recommendation on banners, specifically in relation to their use on the East Innes Street corridor from Interstate 85.
Mitchell said some discussions will have to occur, for example, with Duke Energy about the possible use of utility poles on which to attach banners.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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