Saluda City Council discusses sign ordinance, sign removal

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

By Claire Sachse

At the Saluda City Council meeting Sept. 8, a lengthy discussion was held among council members, Zoning Administrator Jonathon Cannon, and several citizens, regarding signs that were scheduled for removal under the city’s sign ordinance.

Cannon’s report to council contained 18 examples of non-conforming signs that are located in the Historic District, the C1 District, and the Ozone Overlay District. These signs are not located on property that the sign advertises, making them non-compliant. Cannon cited examples of church way finding signs, and real estate signs that are not located on the property for sale.

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Cannon presented the report to council to ask for discussion and direction. He said that City Council does not need to vote on whether he should remove the signs, because the ordinance in place authorizes him to do that, but rather, whether he should hold off enforcement.

“The intent of the ordinance is that non-conforming signs will not survive,” said Cannon. He added that the ordinance does not grandfather non-conforming signs.

When a citizen asked about church signs that announce the presence of a particular denomination in town, Cannon confirmed that those signs were not in compliance. To “carve out” churches from the ordinance, he said, would be a challenge because of how churches can be defined.

When asked by a citizen whether he will remove the “Saluda is a veteran friendly town” sign, he answered, “Yes.”

Unless council directed him otherwise, Cannon said that his intent after the council meeting was to contact the individuals who will be affected and give them the opportunity to remove the signs. If they do not remove them, he said he would remove the signs himself or ask Public Works to do so.

Cannon also said that the planning board is currently in discussions to come up with an ordinance regarding way finding signs in the historic downtown district. The sign would contain directional arrows pointing toward churches, restaurants, bed and breakfasts and shops. He said that he believes a “fairly solid draft” of this ordinance will be ready by their next meeting.

“The planning board has found it to be a daunting task because you open up a can of worms,” said Cannon. “When they come up with an idea, I describe how I would go about enforcing that idea and what that would mean interpreted into an ordinance. And they’re finding that’s creating some real challenges.”

With the Historic District, Cannon said that the planning board is pursing a “less stringent” and better enforceable ordinance than what is currently in place.

“They’re working on bringing most everybody back into compliance,” said Cannon.

“I’m absolutely not going to vote to take down the church signs,” said Commissioner Leon Morgan.

Commissioners Mark Oxtoby, Lynn Cass and Carolyn Ashburn agreed that they did not need to take a vote.

“The ordinance exists,” said Commissioner Mark Oxtoby. “An ordinance is an ordinance.”