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Forsyth County studying sign ordinance
Some businesses allowed to show more messages
During a recent meeting, the Forsyth County commission voted 3-2 to place a moratorium on rules governing LED messaging signs. Some businesses like Rucker Pet and Wild Bird in north Forsyth arent allowed to change their messages as frequently. - photo by Jim Dean

FORSYTH COUNTY — Businesses and other organizations that use messaging signs don’t have to worry about following the Forsyth County code regulating them for a while.

During a recent meeting, the county commission voted 3-2, with Jim Boff and Todd Levent opposed, to place a moratorium on rules governing LED messaging signs.

The decision came after the panel also voted 4-1, with Boff opposed, to have staff look into rewriting the code section overseeing the use of such signs.

The Aug. 21 move came after a conversation during a work session nine days earlier lead by Commissioner Cindy J. Mills, who said she had received several emails and calls from business owners about the regulations.

They expressed concerns that some establishments can change the messages on the boards with much greater frequency.

Tom Brown, director of the county’s planning and zoning department, confirmed that billboard-type signs can change their messaging every 10 seconds if they enter into an agreement with the county to run Amber Alerts, Levi’s Calls and other messages focusing on public safety.

However, businesses with small electronic signs in front of their establishments are allowed to change the messaging every three hours.

Mills invited two of the business owners who have been concerned about the rules to speak during the work session.

Both Scot Rucker, owner of Rucker Pet and Wild Bird, and Candy Hammond, who owns Hammond’s Fishing, both in Mills’ district, said they believed the wide gap in rate of messaging was a little unfair.

Rucker said the signs are great advertising tools that can greatly help businesses.

“We did an ad with Blue Buffalo [pet food] on there,” he said, “and our growth was 28 percent on Blue Buffalo sales over a six-week period.”

He said the sign has helped many people in neighboring counties become more familiar with the business.

“Much of the growth [from the sign use] has been from people in Dawson and Hall counties who drive by our store going home in the evenings that never realized we were a pet store, they thought we were just a horse and livestock store.”

Hammond asked why banks and schools were allowed to have more frequent messaging.

Brown explained that schools are exempted from the ordinance, as are signs that display date, time and temperature, such as those at many banks.

During the Aug. 21 meeting, Mills moved that county staff work on possible changes to the ordinance that would provide more consistency and clarity in the rules.

The moratorium on enforcement of the sign changes will last for 30 days. If changes to the ordinance aren’t adopted during that time frame, a public hearing will be held before the moratorium can be extended.