Tuesday, April 16, 2024

An ‘act of God’ solved Leland’s church sign problem, sort of

High-speed winds from Hurricane Florence destroyed First Baptist Church of Leland's sign, a sign the Town of Leland had issued the church a fine for due to having too large of a space occupied by movable letters.

First Baptist Church of Leland's sign was out of town compliance because of its large area containing movable copy and issued a fine in August. Last month, hurricane-force winds destroyed the sign. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
First Baptist Church of Leland’s sign was out of town compliance because of its large area containing movable copy and issued a fine in August. Last month, hurricane-force winds destroyed the sign. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

LELAND — First Baptist Church of Leland no longer has to worry about owing a fine to the Town; after Hurricane Florence hit last month, the church’s code-violating sign was destroyed.

While the church does have to worry about repairs after the storm, they won’t have issues with the town.

“It’s a moot point,” Niel Brooks, Leland’s assistant town manager, said.

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In August, First Baptist– a church that predates the town — was issued a code violation notice. Back in 2013, Leland changed its sign ordinance to reflect several changes. One of the changes includes verbiage that dictates how much changeable copy can be featured in a sign.

“Our code only allows for changeable copy under very specific circumstances,” Brooks said. “Even when it does allow changeable copy, it’s only a 4-square-foot area.”

The town issued the church a fine after the 5-year grace period ran out.

First Baptist’s sign, which cost the church a few thousand dollars, was too big and had too much space taken up by changeable copy, according to Mark Edwards, one of the church’s pastors. Mark Herms, a congregation member, originally complained about Leland’s fine on Facebook.

“I don’t think it was anything intended,” Edwards said. “I just think it’s a rule they made and they really didn’t consider all of the potential ramifications.” 

After receiving the violation notice, the church’s head pastor, Steve Ellis, wrote Leland a letter, asking for leniency on the fine and the town’s enforcement of the code.

When Hurricane Florence hit last month, high-speed winds caused damage to the church’s roofs and nearly destroyed the non-compliant sign. “The sign is the last of their worries,” Brooks said. “Whatever they’d have to rebuild would have to meet the sign ordinance.”

At this point, Brooks said the town does not plan to collect a fine and the church has not filed any formal petition to change the town’s code.

“We’re not taking any enforcement,” he said. 


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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