Town wisely easing rules on business

May 9, 2014 

Not that long ago, we feared Clayton was intent on becoming another Cary, a city known for its stringent appearance rules. We recall, for instance, the shopping center tenant that wanted to use its signature color on the multi-store sign at the shopping center’s entrance. Problem was, town rules allowed just one color on the sign.

We recall too the time the Clayton Town Council threatened to sue the town’s Board of Adjustment because the board had overruled the council on the maximum size of a sign on what is now known as U.S. 70 Business.

To people who think the world has bigger problems than the size of signs, the Clayton council was an unyielding bully.

Since then, the council has grown more business friendly. Until recently, for example, the town did not allow food trucks in Clayton, arguing that it needed to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants, which pay property taxes. Our own thinking is that restaurants should succeed or fail on their own, and the good news is that the town council eventually lifted the ban when food trucks began parking at Deep River Brewing, which serves beer but not food.

As we wrote at the time, the ban on food trucks was wrong all along, but at least the council was willing to accommodate a changing marketplace. It helped too that some Clayton leaders were fans of the beer and food at Deep River.

The latest news out of town hall is that the council is easing Clayton’s restrictive sign rules. The idea, town leaders say, is to allow some creativity in sign making.

Mike Marvell wants to get creative with a sign he owns along U.S. 70 Business near South Moore Street. The digital sign promotes four businesses, which means that in the course of a 24-hour day, each business gets just six hours of exposure. To help those businesses out, Mr. Marvel wants to add static nameplates to the digital sign. The town’s new sign rules will allow that.

The new rules aren’t as flexible as they could be; they allow sign owners to color outside the lines only if town hall likes what it sees. But in a town that once seemed bent on being unfriendly to business, this is considerable progress and should not go unnoticed.

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