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Marquee sign tabled until next meeting

By Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter

Concerns over wording in a proposed conditional use permit put the final permission for the Columbus Theater sign on hold again Tuesday.

Citing concerns that the proposal needed more specific wording, the Whiteville city council tabled the request by Anne Jernigan to grant a permit for the digital sign.

Jernigan and John Fisher replaced the 1920s era marquee sign with a computerized electronic sign several months ago. The city planning office then told the owners that the sign was against city code, since it flashes and can animate messages. The former sign, a classic removable-letter marquee, was in poor condition. 

Digital marquee at Columbus Theater

Digital marquee at Columbus Theater

Jernigan and Fisher told the board in January that they acted in good faith, making the new sign fit the footprint of its predecessor. Jernigan also noted Tuesday that the sign has been rented or used by a number of clients, ranging from the hospital to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and individuals.

Council members were concerned that the longer message time on the board could be a traffic hazard. Electronic signs in the Bypass Business  (B3) district are prohibited from having flashing lights, animation or messages longer than five seconds.

Jernigan explained that the optimum viewing time for messages on the board is 10 seconds. She also noted that if the conditional use permit is approved, she intended to make several requests that would differ from the Bypass Business District electronic signs rule. The reference to those changes concerned the council, with several expressing worries that the changes might be used by businesses along the bypass as well.

City Attorney Carlton Williamson suggested the council table the request, and review it later as two separate requests – one for the electronic sign, and the second for the changes Jernigan requested from the B3 rules.

The motion to table was presented by Councilman Jimmy Clarida, and seconded by Councilman Robert Leder.

Stuart Rogers