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Sylva leaders give green light to more, bigger, brighter signs

fr dunkindonutsIt’s not quite little Las Vegas, yet, but new sign laws in Sylva are clearing the way for a brighter, blinkier town.


For a year or so now, the town’s planning board has been re-working what is allowed and what isn’t for sign owners in Sylva. The final product was passed by town board members this month. It expands the range of sandwich board signs, increases the size of wall signs and gives the OK to moving images on signs and accent lights punctuating buildings.

It’s been 15 years since Sylva overhauled its sign ordinances. After the changes were approved, town board member Lynda Sossamon joked that “maybe this one will last another 15 years.”

The looser sign rules are aimed at giving local businesses a bit more leeway in advertising themselves and attempts to get with the times in regards to advances in sign technology, digital displays and animation, said John Jeleniewski, the code enforcer for the town of Sylva.

“People need this because they feel it will help their business,” he said about the updated regulations. “It’s just keeping up with evolution of signs and technology and things.”

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Jeleniewski said the hampered economy was weighing heavy on the minds of planning and town board members when both bodies passed the new regulations anonymously. 

“When things are going strong in the economy, it’s easier to enforce these things,” Jeleniewski said. “As long as people and businesses are doing well and are successful, there is no reason to buck what’s there.”

But with businesses feeling a slowdown, loosening some of the sign rules was seen as a way to help.

He said that was some of the reasoning to expand the use of sandwich board signs around town. Under the old laws, the folding, upright signs were only permitted in the downtown area where storefront signage is much smaller and more limited. But now they will have free rein throughout all the commercial districts.

Businesses will also be able to string up banners and flags advertising special deals and sales — and can hang up to two banners at a time. Considered “temporary” signs, however, they can only stay up a month at a stretch and for no more than five months of the year.

“I got a lot of feedback from business owners really wanting to put out something to draw people in,” Jeleniewski said.

When it comes to blinking lights and changing digital displays on signs, they will now be allowed, but there will be restrictions on frequency of flashes and animations, although they will continue to be banned in the downtown area.

The nights could get bright in Sylva as well, with the addition of accent lighting trimming the outlines of buildings to help create an ambience to attract customers in the evening.

“It gives it a little bit more of a glow,” Jeleniewski said. “And it’s a little bit more pleasing at night for people driving by.”

Despite the past ban on building accent lights, several businesses in Sylva already had accent lighting, like Speedy’s Pizza. Dunkin’ Donuts along N.C. 107 had also broken the barrier and put up a sign with changing digital displays, even before the ordinance was changed. Since it would soon be an outdated law, town leaders looked the other way for the time being.

“We just left it alone until the adopting of the new ordinance,” Jeleniewski said.

Another business already reaping the benefits of the town’s updated sign ordinance was Walmart. While looking to re-do the façade on its storefront and flagships sign, the company ran into the part of the old ordinance that limited the amount of square footage it wall signs could be.

The new regulation, rather than placing a maximum limit on wall signs, uses a calculation based on the size of the wall. So, the bigger the wall of the building, the bigger the sign can be. 

“It’s easier to figure out and brings the sign in scale with the building,” Jeleniewski said. 

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