County cracks down on illegal signs - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

County cracks down on illegal signs

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Market and Bayshore is a popular intersection for county staff removing signs. Market and Bayshore is a popular intersection for county staff removing signs.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Law enforcement could soon use some of its tactics and technology to help bust business owners who post illegal signs.

The small signs can be seen at busy intersections around the county, but the advertisements are against New Hanover County's zoning ordinances.

Zoning Code Official Linda Painter spent Tuesday morning tearing signs down around the northern part of the county. She said the signs reappear just as soon as they're removed.

"They keep getting higher and higher up the pole because they know we're taking them down," she said.

The problem comes after the signs are down. County staff can't always find, and fine, the business owners who are behind the signs. In hopes of connecting a cell phone with an address, staff members are working with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office to increase their enforcement efforts.

"There's a lot of signs and limited man power," said Painter. "We're doing the best we can."

One business owner connected to some of the signs said the county needs to come to terms with the economy. He said the signs are a creative marketing tool that provides his business exposure without sacrificing payroll for his employees.

But some business owners are outraged at the illegal signs. Richard Morgan of HomeVestors said he pays thousands for legal advertising and would never consider saving money to post on utility poles and intersections.

"If we were to spend the same amount - or even a third of our advertising dollars - to advertise it illegally, we would plaster signs all over the county and that's a bad decision for many reasons," he said.

Morgan said potential customers should think twice before calling on a business that's associated with illegal street signs.

"If someone is going to advertise illegal," Morgan said. "What kind of service can they expect?"

County staff members will warn any business owners who violate the zoning ordinances. After the initial warning, citations are $100 for the first, $200 for the second and $300 for every one after that.

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