Let there be lighted signs?

CVB request could open door to more electronic displays
Nov. 30, 2013 @ 03:00 PM

When the High Point Convention and Visitors Bureau moves to a new location in early 2014, its leaders want to make its presence known.
But the manner in which they want to do this is drawing a skeptical response from some city leaders.
The CVB is seeking to change city regulations to allow electronic changeable copy signs within the part of the city where it will relocate. It plans to move its offices and open a new, larger visitors center at the High Point Chamber of Commerce headquarters at 1634 N. Main St.
CEO Tim Mabe said the CVB wants to build a monument sign made of brick and limestone at the corner of N. Main Street and State Avenue that would include a digital display about 4 feet long with 10-inch letters.
The top of the sign would read, “Visitors Center,” with this and the names of the CVB and chamber in traditional, permanent letters. The digital display would  broadcast information about events in High Point. Mabe said the CVB plans to spend about $20,000 on the sign.
An electronic display would allow the CVB to update information more easily than with a traditional sign. Mabe said the CVB considered a traditional sign, but determined that one with an electronic display would look better.
“We do think it’s important, since we’re changing locations, to let visitors know where we are,” Mabe said. “We wanted something that would look really good in this part of High Point, in particular, because this is going to be such a focus of a lot of revitalization. We don’t want to terrorize the neighborhood with some obnoxious flashing or scrolling sign.”
Past councils have prohibited electronic signs in most parts of the city because they were perceived as nuisances and distractions to motorists. If business owners scroll or flash messages on signs more often or more brightly than regulations allow, it can be difficult for city code enforcement officials to catch them in the act.
The city’s ordinance allows the signs in two zoning districts — central business and highway business. The CVB is requesting a text amendment that would allow them in the Main Street district, which includes the portion of the N. Main Street corridor where the chamber is located.
City leaders said they’re wary of allowing electronic signs in places like this.
“To me, they’re not totally bad, but I tend to think maybe they would make more sense in places where you’re coming into a community,” such as an interstate interchange, said City Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall.
Councilman Jason Ewing said digital signs might not fit in with the vision of the Ignite High Point Master Plan and the project priorities it lays out for this part of the city, such as more walkability and green space.
“I think there’s got to be certain aesthetics that are kept. If we want this to be a major district and we let businesses come in and put whatever they want, we’re going to have a mess,” Ewing said.
Another concern is whether granting the CVB’s request could open the floodgates to a torrent of similar proposals for electronic signs from other businesses, he said.
“If we move forward as proposed, it could open a Pandora’s box,” Ewing said.
The CVB’s request is scheduled to be heard at the Dec. 10 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
“I think what they don’t want in this part of High Point is a bunch of distracting, flashing and scrolling neon signs, and we don’t either,” Mabe said. “Our dilemma is, we have to be visible to visitors because they’re looking for us, and I think we’re doing High Point a disservice by not having signs to let people know what’s going on when they come to town.”