By Clellie Allen
ROLESVILLE — After literal years of going back and forth on revamping the sign ordinance, Rolesville’s town board will hold a public hearing Feb. 3 to amend the sign ordinance, bringing it up up-to-date with advances in technology like digital signs and incorporating other changes indicative of a growing municipality.
Although originally starting work on the ordinance some four years ago, the board restarted the process in earnest last summer. Town Manager Bryan Hicks commented that the town had put the ordinance on the back burner a few years ago when the economy took a hit, figuring they would try and help business as much as possible by not vigorously enforcing what was already on the books.
Several years later, with the economy improving and Rolesville starting to get serious looks by corporate entities (like Walmart last year) as its residential growth is off the charts, commissioners are ready to bring the ordinance back on the table.
The original ordinance is too vague for today’s purposes and didn’t even define exactly what is a sign.
Today’s municipalities have to contend with everything from small digital signs to gigantic billboard screens that change images every few seconds.
And, of course, there are the regular signs mounted on walls or sign posts outside of buildings. These are now competing with signs that are really flags or vehicles wrapped with advertising and parked by roads. Today’s business creativity makes it more pressing to define exactly what is a flag, how to measure it and then whether or not to allow it.
Town staff held a series of get-togethers with business owners and residents alike as well as solicited comments via e-mail, taking each comment into consideration.
At their Jan. 6 meeting, commissioners heard from Hicks and Planning Director Thomas Lloyd concerning 11 lingering discussion points revolving around things like:
•Will there be a maximum number of wall signs allowed in addition to limiting the total area? No, the limitations will come with total area.
•Can business signs be homemade, out of plywood? No, they must be made of durable materials.
•Will electronic message boards be allowed? Yes, but only as on-premise signs, and with just two rows of text allowed among other limitations.
In all, the proposed changes are designed to be as clear as possible, but not more onerous for business.
“The new language is not more or less restrictive than the current ordinance,” Lloyd said. “We did not want to create a bunch of non-conforming signs.”
The new ordinance will also address off-premise signs (billboards), penalties for various noncompliance violations and the timetable for bringing all signs into compliance, a process known as amortization. The bottom line: no signs will be permanently grandfathered in.
The proposed changes can be reviewed prior to the Feb. 3 public hearing at rolesvillenc.gov/ph or by going to town hall and asking for a copy of the proposal.
Apartments on the menu
Also on the agenda for a Feb. 3 public hearing is the creation of a R3 multi-family residential zoning district that would allow apartment construction.
Currently, the only zoning district under which apartments can be built is through the Residential and Planned Unit Development (R&PUD) zone and only in tandem with a master-planned mixed-use project.
Creating the R3 district will allow higher density residential uses without the added nonresidential (mixed use) requirements.
If the new zone is approved at the Feb. 3 meeting, no properties will be immediately inside the district. This ordinance merely adds the zone district to the list of available districting within the UDO (unified development ordinance). A property owner or developer would still have to petition the town for rezoning in the normal fashion.
Expanding planning board
A third proposed code change will also have its public hearing at the Feb. 3 meeting — the expansion of the extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) representation on the planning board.
Rolesville’s planning board serves in an advisory capacity to the town board on matters of planning, zoning and development. There are currently six members of the planning board serving staggered three-year terms.
State law mandates that a portion of the planning board members be ETJ residents to represent the interests of the ETJ. The town currently has six planning board spots with two coming from the ETJ.
Town staff recommended to commissioners to add one seat to the planning board, and that it come from the ETJ.
All three public hearings will be held Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the meeting room at town hall, 502 Southtown Circle.
Materials for the public hearing, including the agenda, can be reviewed beforehand by the public at rolesvillenc.gov/ph or by calling town hall at 919-556-3506 and requesting to see a copy.