Where are the signs? 

Published 10:30 pm Sunday, July 14, 2019

Resident questions commissioners on directional signs 

COLUMBUS—Polk County Commissioners had a discussion with a winery owner this week, who questioned the formerly proposed directional signs around the county.  

Commissioners met Monday and heard from Frank Lilly, owner of Overmountain Vineyards. Lilly said the county is in the midst of high travel season and has had a record number of visitors from all over the United States.  

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He said the reason for his visitors, he believes, is the directional sign on U.S. 74 that his vineyard paid $2,700.  

He asked for an update on the county’s directional signs to direct people around the county. Lilly said he travels to other counties and towns, including Henderson County and Landrum, and it is very easy to facilitate visitors to businesses.  

County manager Marche Pittman said Polk hired the contractor over a year ago to do the project and petitioned the state. The North Carolina Department of Transportation replied to the county that because Polk is rural, directional signs were no longer allowed, Pittman said. Pittman said if Polk had tried a year or two ago, there would be no issue, but a new interpretation of the law has been made.  

“The interpretation has apparently changed in Raleigh,” Pittman said. “As of right now, we are dead in the water.”  

Lilly said it is discrimination as every other county has beautiful signs. He suggested the county hiring an attorney to contact Raleigh.  

Pittman said Polk County officials are very upset and there is another county facing the same issue.  

“Municipalities can (put up directional signs) all day long,” Pittman said. “Counties can’t.”  

Commissioner vice chair Myron Yoder asked if the county appealed the state’s decision.  

Pittman said Polk sent a letter to the NCDOT and got a response that pretty much said “tough luck.”  

Commissioner Chair Tommy Melton asked if the board could get a representative from the NCDOT to come to a meeting.  

Pittman said he does not know if the NCDOT would come but he was planning on having the tourism department come to a meeting for an update soon. He said the other option is to contact legislature.  

“I’m trying to understand why we can’t have signs to direct people who are coming to Polk County to come to (Lilly’s) business and others,” Melton said.  

Pittman said it is a federal regulation and the state is tasked with interpreting the regulations. He said it may have to be a change at the federal level, which is a very complicated thing.  

“So the fact that we are a small county, we are being penalized,” Melton said.