Walmart debate prompts Sylva to consider more flexible sign rules

Walmart in Sylva was asking for the town board to grant them an exemption for a larger storefront sign. But instead of getting a pass on the existing ordinance, the town board decided to change the sign law as it applies to everyone.


A slim majority of Sylva town board members were willing to go ahead and grant Walmart the exemption, but a super majority was needed for the measure to pass.

Walmart currently has both roadside and storefront signs larger than the town’s rules allows — but it wants to replace the signs with new ones, which means it would lose its grandfathered status.

Walmart representatives came to the meeting. They withdrew one of their two requests: the one for a larger roadside sign. That sign will be left as is, thus preserving grandfathered status. But they still hope to redo their storefront sign and would need an exemption to keep the new one as big as the old one.

Those in favor of giving Walmart a pass on the rules were: Harold Hensley, Chris Matheson and Danny Allen. Those against were: Lynda Sossoman and Barbara Hamilton.

However, the town board appeared to agree that the town’s sign rules aren’t flexible enough for stores with such massive façades.

“It looks like putting a postage stamp on a manila envelope,” said Board Member Harold Hensley.

So, town board members directed the planning board to come up with changes to the sign laws. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all formula for sign size, the sign size would be based on the square footage of the building.

The planning board already had a review of the sign ordinances in the works. The town board will then hear the proposed changes at its next meeting. 

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