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City gives nod to downtown theater marquee

By Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter

A narrowly written text amendment to allow the renovated Columbus Theater marquee in Whiteville to remain lighted passed Tuesday.

Anne Jernigan and John Fisher of Bass-Fisher Properties, owners of the Columbus Theater building downtown, recently upgraded and rehabilitated the 1920s era marquee to a digital sign with computer-generated messages. 

The sign has proven popular with customers ranging from Columbus Regional Hospital to individuals sending out birthday greetings.

Fisher and Jernigan addressed the board earlier this year after being informed by  City Planner Robert Lewis that the electronic sign was not allowed in the downtown business district. The business owners requested a permit for the sign, as well as a text amendment to allow the sign to remain downtown.

Their request in February was delayed while City Council considered several limitations Jernigan and Fisher requested be placed on the text amendment. At the suggestion of city staff, the limitations were addressed in a conditional use permit separate from the text amendment. 

Jernigan’s suggested limitations included provisions that forbid “flashing, blinking, pulsing or fluctuation” of the light, as well as automatic adjustment for daytime and evening settings.

Messages will also be allowed to remain for six seconds, a shorter time than the 15 second limit on signs in the bypass district.

The request for the conditional use permit as well as the text amendment were approved by city council.

Stuart Rogers