Editorial: Local government makes a big deal out of little signs

October 05, 2003

Here we go again. It looks like the opening salvo has been fired in yet another battle in the Danville-Boyle County sign war.

The war has been waging for years among business owners, the Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning Commission and the two governmental bodies, Boyle Fiscal Court and Danville City Commission.

It wasn't too long ago that local car dealer Stuart Powell went to battle over a sign he wished to move to his property off the Danville bypass.

And Fiscal Court currently is hammering out new regulations for real estate auction signs.

Last week, the owners of Little Caesars Pizza on West Main Street expressed concern in a letter on this page about being required by P&Z to remove small, mobile signs in front of their store that they had been using to promote special pizza prices.


Tom and Mary Ann Hollon said their sales had increased by 21 percent during the week they used the mobile signs. They also pointed out that after purchasing the business, they decided to stay downtown despite questions about the visibility of the store's location. The mobile signs obviously were helping to overcome that problem.

They contended that Danville "discourages small business success." We would have to agree with them, and the sign regulations are an excellent example of what's wrong with the system. It's preposterous that a little pizza shop can't stick a sign out front as part of a special promotion. It's not like they erected a 100-foot-tall sign with flashing lights and sirens.

What's the harm in a couple of little signs? As a matter of fact, we'd prefer a little of what some historic preservation purists might call "tackiness" downtown to the "deadness" we have there now. We'd rather see mobile signs on the sidewalks in front of every business downtown to the empty or under-used buildings that are too much in evidence there now.

The Hollons aren't the first downtown business owners to have gotten crosswise with this kind of bureaucratic idiocy. And they won't be the last unless there's a change in attitude.

We say "attitude" because that's the crux of the issue, in our view. It's a matter of whether local government has an attitude of trying to help local businesses thrive or whether it is just concerned about keeping a lid on the hustle and bustle of a thriving business district.

The way it is now the business owner who tries to do something a little creative to increase revenues can expect a slap on the wrist rather than a pat on the back from local government.

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