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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Signs, signs, everywhere signs. But in downtown Wilmington, some business could be in violation of a city ordinance, and that could mean big bucks in an already tight economy.

In 2008 Wilmington City Council adopted changes to the city’s sign ordinance for businesses downtown, but owners say they were not told about the ordinance until recently.

“The business owners did not even know the sign ordinance had been changed and passed,” said Tom Harris, owner of Front Street Brewery. “We didn’t find out about it until 2011 when we started receiving violation notices.”

Tuesday the city admitted its mistake. In a statement a spokeswoman said, “The lack of notification on this change in the sign ordinance was a significant oversight on the part of the city. The city has already begun to develop a process to make sure we do a better job with these types of notifications in the future.”

Under the ordinance, the city requires that window advertisements only take up 10 percent of the window. Hard Wire Tattoo is just one of many businesses that have been cited for this violation. Justin LaNasa owns the shop. He’s also a candidate for Wilmington Mayor.

“Them telling you what you can do inside of your windows is, to me, is against the moral fabric of being able to do what you want to do in your business,” LaNasa. “To me, it’s unreal.”

Among the violations business owners face is the size of their freestanding and marquis signs.

Harris says the rule is not fair to owners who already paid big bucks for their signs.

“They’ve taken signs that used to be legal and are now making them illegal, and some of those signs are very expensive and tens of thousands (of dollars). In my mind that is taking away private property,” Harris said. “That’s very, very disturbing. I think grounds for a lawsuit.”

For now the city plans to work with businesses on a case-by-case basis to deal with the sign ordinance violations.

Harris says he plans to distribute surveys about the ordinance to business owners tomorrow and will share the results with City Council.

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6 Comments on "Downtown business just finding out about 2008 sign ordinance change"

2015 years 9 months ago

I believe the 10% sign ordinance has been on the books for years. You are probably getting half the story.

Wade Griffis
2015 years 9 months ago

I was thinking about posting something of my own, but the common sense guy gave mo the best laugh I have had all day. No need for my opinion. He said it best!

Wade Griffis
2015 years 9 months ago

When WE Really Need Them?

Myrtle Beach chamber of commerce buys bus tickets to Wilmington for their homeless, puts them on the bus and tells them- goodby, good luck and do not come back.

I am not unsympathetic to homeless people. I have been there, done that!

We need to understand that enabling- does not mean helping.

My suggestion is to buy a block of tickets down at Greyhound, meet the bus and send these folks back.

Turn about is fair play.

2015 years 9 months ago

…that Wilmington has with signs? It wasn’t that long ago they were raising Cain on the Eatern end of Oleander, now they’re going downtown to harrass merchants?

Saffo, you city is a pig sty, your ghettos are shooting galleries, armed robbery is the hobby of choice, there are more drugs being dealt out of public housing than CVS, and all you tyrants can do is worry about signs?

Exactly WHERE are your priorities?

Instead of worrying about signs downtown, how about worrying about the hundreds of homeless bums and winos that grace the Third Street corridor twenty-four hours a day?

2015 years 9 months ago

Those who had existing outside signs should be grandfathered in and not subject to the changes. I agree with Mr. LaNasa that the government has no business telling people what kind of signs a person can put in the window of their private businesses. Given that he is running for mayor I find the timing of the citations very suspicious.

2015 years 9 months ago

Hey, since Carolina has invited NY’s Mayor Bloomberg to be its next commencement speaker because of his business skills and philanthropy, maybe we should take up a collection and fill up a few northbound Greyhounds with our homeless….. Mike will take care of them.


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