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Forsyth commission OKs changes to sign ordinance for EMBs

FORSYTH COUNTY — The Forsyth commission on Thursday approved changes to the county’s sign ordinance to regulate electronic message boards.

Under the new rules, the unit of measurement for brightness on the boards — signs that display fixed or rotating messages and can be switched electronically — was changed from foot-candles to nits.

All signs — not just billboards — have to comply with brightness limitations and the rate at which messages can change. The rate moves from three hours to 20 minutes for most signs and 10 seconds for billboards.

Billboards are allowed to change at a greater frequency because they can display emergency messages such as Amber Alerts.

Sign owners are also required to install automatic dimmers that will change with the amount of sunlight and will dim during darker hours or instances of bad weather.

Furthermore, electronic message boards will only be allowed in commercial or industrial zoned districts.

The vote was 4-1 in favor of the changes, with Commissioner Jim Boff opposed.

This is the second change to the local billboard regulations in less than a month. On Feb. 10, the commission extended a moratorium on the conversion of billboards to electronic message boards.

Also during their meeting Thursday night, the commissioners:

* Held their first public hearing on a proposed change to a parks and recreation ordinance that would give department employees more flexibility in banning those who violate parks rules.

Under the current setup, a conviction is required before a ban can be enacted.

* Discussed two possible adjustments to the county’s alcohol code.

The first would change which individuals are required to have licenses at businesses that sell alcohol and increase the amount of special event permits companies could get each year.

The second would remove a 50-seat limit for restaurants that serve alcohol. This was the first public hearing for each proposal.

* Approved a revision to the unified development code that strikes the cap on the number of model homes in a subdivision.

Developers are still allowed just one model home per 40 lots, but previously there had been a limit of five such homes per subdivision.