WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington is easing up on an ordinance banning signs in the public right-of-way to allow businesses to advertise that they are still open during Covid-19 restrictions. The change comes after the city confiscated and disposed of many signs, leading to complaints from local business owners.
Typically, signs are banned in the public right-of-way by city ordinance. On a typical street, that usually includes the boulevard (i.e. the sidewalk and any grassy area between the sidewalk and the street) as well as the curb, any median areas, and the street itself. (There are some exceptions under the city code Sec. 18-592, including signs for individual political candidates, real estate, construction, and religious or civic groups).
After Governor Roy Cooper’s executive orders, restricting and then closing many businesses, restaurants and shops that have managed to remain open have been posting signs to let potential customers they are still open.
Initially, the city’s code enforcement office enforced the ordinance banning these signs. The city seized and disposed of around 40 signs, according to city spokesperson Dylan Lee.
Local businesses were not pleased, and apparently city officials got the message. Over the weekend, a city spokesperson posted a message on Facebook, announcing a temporary policy change:
“We’re making some changes to further assist our local businesses during Covid-19. While signs in the public right-of-way are typically not allowed, as of this weekend and moving forward, we will no longer enforce this rule for essential businesses including restaurants, as long as the signs do not create a hazard for drivers,” the post read.
The city later added that it would not be confiscating any more signs or issuing any fines (the city did not specify if it had issued any fines prior to its change of heart).
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