Friday, February 23, 2024

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Pole signs could be banned in Mebane; council to decide in June

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Existing pole signs “grandfathered” only so long as the poles don’t fail; if they’re destroyed and have to be replaced, they’ll no longer be allowed

Mebane’s city council heard an overview Monday night about proposed changes in the city unified development ordinance (UDO).

Many were technical changes recommended by a consultant hired by the city to review its ordinances.

But two proposed changes outlined by the city’s development director, Ashley Ownbey, drew the attention of the council, which will now consider the original recommendations and the two potential amendments to the changes at its next meeting, on June 5.

Among the changes that had also drawn concerns of the planning board was a proposal to lower the parking requirements for apartment complexes.

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Overall, the recommended UDO changes encompassed loosening the number of parking spaces required in shopping centers, office buildings, hotels, and apartment complexes, while tightening the rules surrounding signage for businesses.

City council members didn’t question the changes for shopping centers, office buildings, or hotels, but they did challenge whether there was a reason to reduce the number of spaces in apartment complexes.

For apartments, Ownbey is recommending that the city lower its requirement to 1.5 parking spaces for every two-bedroom apartment, versus the current requirement of 1.75 spaces; the 1.5-space-per two- bedroom requirement is the same as the city’s one-bedroom apartment requirement.

In materials prepared for the planning board and city council, she drew as an example an apartment complex on Eleventh Street with 48 apartments. Under the current ordinance, an apartment complex would be required to have 72 parking spaces, as opposed to the current requirements, which would be for 78 parking spaces.

Councilman Tim Bradley questioned the reasoning behind the proposed reduction, worrying aloud about the potential shortage of available parking spaces, especially late at night, when residents return home from work and various events.

“There are not a lot of parking spaces left [late at night],” he suggested.

He also noted that Mebane did not need to be more lenient in order to attract more apartment complexes – inasmuch as the city has seen a dramatic growth in the number of apartments constructed in recent years.

“I don’t see a good reason to drop it,” Bradley said.

He pointed out that Ownbey’s own research had shown that among so-called “peer cities” that were surveyed on the issue, about half had the level of proposed change, while about half had the city’s current standard.

The council ultimately agreed to consider a Bradley amendment striking the lower parking requirement when the council resumes deliberations on the package of UDO changes on June 5.

 

Pole signs
On another topic, however, Bradley wanted the city to have stricter standards than were being recommended by the city’s development director.

Ownbey recommended that the city prohibit new pole signs in three zoning areas of the city: office and institutional areas; the central business district; and the neighborhood business district.

Mebane city manager Chris Rollins interjected that he felt it would be “more positively charming” – a play on the city’s motto “positively charming” – “to move toward ground signs only.”

It was noted during the discussion that Burlington has eliminated pole signs and that certain “overlay” districts in Graham – primarily along South Main Street and NC 54 – pole signs are also prohibited.

Bradley raised the issue of whether the pole signs could be eliminated in all areas of the city – except within 400 feet of the interstate where various businesses have very tall pole signs intended to attract attention from interstate drivers.

[Story continues below photos of signs affected by potential ban on pole signs.]


Mebane signs that could be banned by one or both of proposed limits on pole signs within the city:

 

 


 

“Grandfathered” exception has its limits

Everyone acknowledged that under both the proposal included in the UDO revisions, and Bradley’s request for broader elimination, that existing pole signs would be “grandfathered.”

However, it was explained that while grandfathering would allow the potential replacement of a sign atop a pole, if the pole itself had to be replaced, it would trigger a requirement to comply with the city’s new standard – i.e., the pole sign would have to be eliminated in favor of a ground (or sometimes referred to as monument) sign.

So, for instance, if a storm or car accident caused a business’ pole sign to be bent or destroyed, an existing business would not be allowed to put up another pole sign in its place.

Both versions of the pole sign proposal – elimination beyond the 400-foot interstate area, as Bradley wanted, or the elimination only within the three zoning areas originally recommended – will be considered when the council resumes consideration of the issue on June 5.

Other signs that would be eliminated include sign “spinners,” signs with certain types of electronics, and so-called “snipe signs,” which were described as those placed in rights-of-way and on utility poles.

Neon signs could have no more than three colors, according to the proposal and would not be allowed within 150 feet of any residential area.

The existing size of signs near the interstate would be reduced from 300 to 200 square feet and the maximum allowable height reduced from 60 feet to 35 feet.

In other areas of the city, the 200 square foot space for a sign would be reduced to 100 square feet and the maximum height reduced from 35 feet to 20 feet.

Window signs, including painted words and/or lighting, could occupy no more than 10 percent of the space.


See other Mebane news:

New police chief announced: https://alamancenews.com/mebane-announces-new-police-chief/

City manager recommends new budget with tax rate higher than “revenue neutral”: https://alamancenews.com/mebane-budget-has-11-percent-tax-increase-new-special-fund-for-long-term-capital-projects/

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