Small-business owners in Raleigh, North Carolina are upset over a proposed rule that would restrict the size of their signs—and let bigger businesses have bigger signs.
The city council is considering updating Raleigh’s sign ordinance to limit signage size based on the size of the business, according to the Triangle Business Journal. The proposed changes are due to some complaints over a large electronic billboard in the window of a small real estate along a busy street.
Thomas Lashley, owner of Leather and Wood Furniture Gallery, says the proposed changes are unfair to small businesses that already have a difficult enough time competing against large chains. "[The] economy is slow,” he told local news site WRAL. “Everything we can get to get people in our store makes a difference for us."
Raleigh City Council member Thomas Crowder, however, disputes that claim. He says that large, flashy signage can distract motorists and diminish the appearance of the city. Small businesses have plenty of other ways to attract customers to their stores than large signs. "With this day and age, you have WRAL-TV, the newspaper, coupons in the mail, the Internet,” he says. “There are plenty of ways to do it without advertising on the glass.”
Crowder also says that large window signs pose a safety risk if they block police officers’ ability to see inside a business.
While Raleigh is the latest place where sign ordinances have sparked controversy, it surely is not the first.
Carl and Elizabeth Fears, husband-and-wife owners of Got Muscle Health Club in Sacramento, California, were threatened with fines for using A-frame or “sandwich” signs outside of their business. The Fears sued the city in federal court saying their First Amendment rights were violated.
“[The] cheapest form of advertisement is sandwich signs,” Carl Fears told Sacramento’s local CBS station. “We don’t’ have the dollars. We are a small business. It’s family-owned, so we have to find small ways to get the name out in what we are trying to do.”
Due to the Fears’ lawsuit, the Sacramento City Council revised the city’s sign ordinance, allowing businesses to use A-frame signs, banners, flags and other temporary signs for the first time in many years.
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