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Cornelius News

Cornelius board may liberalize signs of the times

More than 100 political signs outside of Town Hall

Aug. 21. By Dave Vieser. With a spirited race for Town Board around the corner, Cornelius officials are in the process of changing local rules on political signs so they are the same as the state. The new rules would give candidates two extra weeks to display political signs, changing the start date to 30 days prior to the start of early/one-stop voting, which this year is Thursday Oct . 19.

Previously, town law restricted sign placement to 30 days prior to the election, primary or general. This year, local elections will be Nov. 7.

The issue came to a head last fall when Jane Campbell, a candidate for the NC House seat held at the time by John Bradford, said Bradford had his signs up too early.

Bradford said he was just following state law, but the incident highlighted the discrepancy between the town and state laws.

“We’re proposing to make sure we are in line with state statutes, so the idea is to change our language to match state law word for word,” said Town Planning Director Wayne Herron. The proposed change comes before the Town Board for a vote at tonight’s meeting. It begins at 7 at Town Hall.

If the changes are approved by the Town Board, as expected, political signs can be displayed during the third week in September. Under the old law, they wouldn’t have been able to go up until the first week in October. The new town regulations will also require that the signs be removed no more than 10 days after elections or primaries. Previously the deadline was five days.

The new regulations were already approved by the town’s Local Development Code Advisory Board and Planning Board. The remainder of the town’s political sign law will remain the same:

• Each sign cannot exceed six square feet in area.

• The property owner upon whose land the sign is placed on must give permission for the placement of signs and will be held responsible for violations.

• No sign shall be placed in any Town owned right-of-way, on any telephone pole or street sign, or on any public property unless otherwise allowed per state law.

• Placement of political signage within windows of businesses is not subject to the 30-day time limitation.

Also on the agenda is a proposal for an additional public hearing earlier in the town’s conditional zoning review process. Under the current procedure, the required town board public hearing comes at the very end of the process.  The new hearing would be held after the applicant completes the required community meeting, which is near the start of the review process.

“This additional hearing will allow for public input,” said Planning Director Wayne Herron.  “However, no additional time will be added to the current conditional zoning process and no additional advertising costs will be incurred.”

The town staff had considered several options, including having a public hearing once an application has been filed, or having the town conduct quarterly public hearings on new applications. In the end, however, adding the public hearing after the community meeting was the favored option.

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