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Landis adopts amendments to Zoning Ordinance related to signs, Planning Board terms

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — Town aldermen Monday approved amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance related to signs and Planning Board terms as the town continues to update its Land Development Ordinance and comprehensive plan to comply with state law.

The current Town of Landis Zoning Ordinance was adopted in October 1996. However, the ordinance has become obsolete since then, prompting town officials to make changes in compliance with North Carolina General Statute 160D.

Amendments adopted Monday night include a list of prohibited signs as well as signage not subject to receiving a permit beforehand that complies with state statutes and a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on “content neutrality” in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert. That case also clarified the level of scrutiny that should be applied to signs with content and speech.

The amendment to the zoning ordinance prohibits certain signs, which must be removed within 10 days. Those signs include snipe signs as well as signs attached to light fixtures, curbs, sidewalks, gutters, streets, utility poles, public buildings, fences, railings, public telephone poles and trees. Other prohibited signs include:

• windblown signs, such as streamers, balloons and inflatable signs
• signs that prevent free entrance and exit from any door or window or fire escape
• signs that obstruct the vision of any roadway, vehicular traffic or pedestrian traffic
• portable signs
• signs erected or displayed on or over public rights-of-way that aren’t erected by governmental agencies or agreed upon in an encroachment agreement
• signs that alter their height, location or size
• signs that revolve or strobe
• signs attached to the roofs of buildings
• off-premises billboard signs except those placed by governmental agencies for public purposes

Signs that are allowed with certain conditions include:

• warning and security signs related to safety, welfare or the public’s convenience placed by a public utility
• government signs, as well as nonprofit organization signs sponsored by governments, that include insignia, legal notices and navigation directions
• signs or flags on public or private property commemorating public and local holidays
• warning and security signs placed by private property owners restricting activity, such as signs stating, “No Dumping,” “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” as long as they contain less than 2 square feet of content
• signs placed inside ball fields and outdoor amphitheaters that face toward the interior of the field and are primarily visible for event attendees
• accent lighting as long as no more than two architectural elements are accented per occupancy
• signs associated with short-term events for charity or nonprofit organizations
• incidental signs containing no more than 2 square feet of content. No more than six incidental signs can be placed per occupancy, and such signs may flash if they’re located within a building. Examples of incidental signs include “We’re Open” signs or a list of the business’ hours.
• machine signs containing no more than 8 square feet of content. Drive-thru menus and/or kiosk machines may contain up to 12 square feet in content.
• signs attached to collection bins as long as they’re within 6 square feet of content
• any sign, public notice or warning required by federal, state or local law
• address signs with no more than 4 square feet in content
• retail store window displays of merchandise
• signs attached to licensed vehicles
• signs attached to umbrellas as long as they don’t exceed 25% of the total surface area of the umbrella
• one temporary sign per property street frontage with limitations based on the zoning district the property is within. Temporary signs are limited to six consecutive months per calendar year.
• U.S., North Carolina, Rowan County or Town of Landis flags on flagpoles as long as they don’t exceed 50 square feet in area and 48 square feet in height. A maximum of three flags can be displayed on a lot measuring less than one acre, while five are allowed in areas exceeding one acre.
• holiday, sports and good-will decorations with non-promotional messages as long as lights and decorations are not displayed for longer than 60 days per calendar year on non-residential property
• signs for temporary businesses such as vendors, produce stands and other special events
• fence wraps displaying signage at construction sites

Additionally, another amendment to the zoning ordinance that was adopted includes terms for Planning Board members. The board will consist of seven members with three-year terms. Members must reside within the town limits and are appointed by town aldermen.

The amendment states that with the original appointments, three are appointed to three-year terms, while two are appointed to two-year terms and two additional members are appointed to one-year terms. Town aldermen can also appoint alternate members in their discretion to fill a vacancy or when acting members are absent.

The Planning Board is tasked with providing recommendations related to zoning to town leadership and developing and updating a Comprehensive Land Use and Master Plan. The amendment also states any member of the Planning Board must recuse themselves from any matter in which a conflict of interest is evident.

A public comment period was held for the proposed amendments, with only local resident Nadine Cherry speaking. Cherry said sign ordinances should have been modified and adopted much earlier than now, and she asked about the number of times a Planning Board member can miss a meeting before they’re removed.

Mayor Pro Tem Ashley Stewart said his understanding is that members must miss three consecutive meetings within 12 months, but that it’s a voluntary commitment and subject to change the board in its governing documents.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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