'For Rent' Signs Draw Criticism
The signs of the times in Carthage are nothing to brag about, the town commissioners said at their November meeting.
They found two recently posted “For Rent” boards particularly vexing. Town Manager Carol Sparks said she hates the look they give the county seat.
“It makes it look like Carthage has gone out of business,” she said, looking at a 4-by-8 rough wooden panel nailed to the front of one of the most historic buildings downtown. It’s the last remaining structure from the Tyson & Jones Buggy Works still standing in the town’s historic district.
The town celebrates that part of its history on Mother’s Day weekend every May with the Carthage Buggy Festival.
Across the street, on another building with a vacant business space, a second 4-by-8 sign is also nailed over the front window. Both signs are simply hand-lettered in bright red paint, pencil lines drawn to mark off the lines before painting still clearly visible.
The telephone number on the signs reaches Rick Fleming, an agent with Fonville Morisey Realty, a Raleigh firm.
Commissioner Lee McGraw called the number and spoke to Fleming, twice.
“I called the cell number posted on the crude wood,” McGraw said. “We had two conversations. A couple of months ago, he assured me that he would have the sign down in a week or two from that conversation. That didn’t happen.”
Fleming is coming to Carthage next week and said he hopes to work something out — either make a deal with new tenants and take the signs down, or just take these signs down and post others. It isn’t entirely Fleming’s call. He said he has to deal with a number of people, the owner, prospective renters and others.
“I spoke with Lee,” Fleming said in a telephone interview late Tuesday afternoon. “Let me just say this: I have asked them to take the signs down, and I will do my part next week when I come into town. They are affixed to the buildings. I’ve asked them to take them down, and I will see what I can do next week.”
When he and Fleming spoke by telephone, McGraw said he tried to explain to the real estate agent just how bad these crude advertisements are making historic Carthage look.
“I asked him if he would put such a ‘sign’ in front of his own business,” McGraw said. “He never said he would. He just gave me the smart comment of ‘It got your attention didn’t it?’ I said, ‘Well, drool gets attention as well, but not the desirable kind.’ He said that his client paid someone local — like that boosted the economy — to paint the piece of OSB board. It’s similar to plywood, only cheaper and not made for signs.”
Fleming thinks McGraw misunderstood his response, which he meant to lighten the discussion without making light of town concerns.
“I love Carthage,” Fleming said. “I go to the Buggy Festival. I’ve always had a fond — personally — a very fond love for the town.”
McGraw and others on the board, along with everybody at the town office, abhor these signs. They hate the way they make the town look to visitors.
“At risk of losing a painter’s vote, as signs go, it may as well say ‘Welcome to Hell,’” McGraw said. “I asked him to put one of his signs in place instead. This has not happened. Obviously his remark to me about getting attention is his advice to his client.”
The signs went up. Now, they may — or may not — be coming down. Fleming hopes new tenants will solve the problem, but says the signs meet current code.
Carthage town ordinances allow signs up to 4-by-8 feet in size. There are no specific regulations about appearance.
These signs are entirely legal, according to both Fleming and Sparks. Those town ordinances are likely to be revised in the future. At their meeting, the town commissioners began making plans to re-examine the wording of Carthage sign rules.
“In the meantime, we are working on a better sign ordinance — and fast!” McGraw said in an e-mail about the situation.
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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