Council discusses pros, cons of billboards

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — Drivers cruising down certain stretches of Interstate 95 are bombarded by billboard after billboard, all competing, sometimes in tacky and sometimes in attractive ways, for the attention and potential patronage of the drivers. Such was the conundrum that faced Elizabethtown’s Town Council in Monday’s meeting.

At the noon planning meeting, the board addressed a rezoning request for a 12-acre stretch of the Highway 87 bypass near Big Blue from Residential Agriculture to Bypass Commercial for the purpose of erecting billboards. Elizabethtown Mayor Sylvia Campbell informed the board that protest petitions had been received regarding the proposal, and she asked for input from those present.

“I think we have a beautiful town,” offered Pat DeVane, director of public works for the town, “and one of the attributes that makes us different is that our bypass is not littered from one end to the other with billboards. I’m not against billboards or against business — I just want us to proceed with caution regarding the number of billboards that are allowed.”

Campbell countered that much commerce would be lost for local business owners if they could not advertise their services, pointing out in particular several upstart companies. In addition, she said, some of the property along the highway is not fit for anything but to be used for billboards. She did, however, agree with DeVane.

Elizabethtown Planning Technician Billie Hall voiced a concern that once a piece of property is zoned bypass commercial, the property is not limited to only billboards, but could be used for any number of commercial interests that would not be under the board’s purview.

The property under scrutiny is one of two pieces of property along the bypass that remain residential agriculture. The board decided to table the issue until the zoning ordinances are complete.

In other action, the board:

— Swore in new Chief of Police Tony Parrish, who officially began duties April 1. District Court Judge Scott Ussery administered the oath of office and commented on the large number of law officers present for the ceremony.

“This is a great show of support and solidarity, and it speaks to the good relationship between the Sheriff’s Office, the Highway Patrol, and the police department,” he said.

Parrish’s daughter, Carleigh, also participated in the ceremony.

— Again addressed the issue of special use zoning ordinances at the afternoon meeting. The board, which is also looking into either revising or rewriting all the ordinances, was faced with the decision to either amend the current special use text and then amend it again when the entire ordinance document was revised, or wait and amend the special use text as part of the revision process.

“If we’re going to do it, we need to do it right,” offered Clark, who moved that the special use zoning text amendment be taken off the agenda for the evening. The board was of the opinion that addressing special use permit ordinances twice was redundant, and approved Clark’s motion.

— received two proposals from Dale Holland of Holland Consultants regarding the revision/rewriting of said ordinances. Option 1 was for an update of the existing ordinances, and option 2 was for a complete rewrite of the ordinances. The second option would take longer, but would, Holland said, cover future potential changes, allow for public input, allow for more meetings with an advisory committee, and include more graphics that would make the verbiage less confusing. The rewrite would also cost $20,000 more than the revision, which would cost $38,000. Holland informed the board that the rewrite would make it “much less likely that (the board) will be sitting here in five years addressing the issue again.” The council approved option 2.

— approved an increase for the loan for the Downtown Wastewater Collection Rehabilitation Project in the amount of $7,958.80. Project Engineer Carter Hubard reported that, during a video examination, a collapsed sewer main was found on Cypress Street, necessitating sewer repair and road work. DeVane told the board that the project is nearing its completion and requires “a few things that need to be done to wrap things up.”

— approved an audit contract with Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams, and Company, PA.

— learned that construction at Leinwand Park is scheduled to resume in April and chose an orange and blue color scheme for the toddler equipment that needs to be purchased. Equipment would be wheelchair-accessible. Town Manager Eddie Madden informed the board that the equipment was found 50 percent off and came in at $0.30 under the $24,000 budget. A grant will be used to purchase the equipment, as well as a picnic shelter to be constructed on the site.

— approved a contract with Geological Resources for work at one of the town’s wells. DeVane informed the board that the well in question is well #1, which, the board learned at February’s budget planning retreat, is nearing the end of its use and will be abandoned soon. DeVane said that the state of North Carolina mandates, however, that the leak be fixed prior to its closure, at a cost of roughly $6,000.

— made four appointments to be Elizabethtown Planning Board.

— approved from City Sandwich Shop an application for a façade grant, which would be used to add an awning to the front of the building. The cost was $586.11, or one-half of the cost of the awning.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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