Fair for the goose?

Published 1:50 pm Wednesday, December 28, 2016

McCarty says county not following its own rules

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty wants the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors to look at the county’s ordinances — particularly those governing signs and noise — because they seemingly don’t apply to county activities.

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McCarty, who raised the issue at the Dec. 15 meeting, said the county puts up banners and signs all the time advertising the fair and other activities, but businesses have complained about the difficulties they have doing the same thing.

“If you’re going to enforce an ordinance you should follow it. It sends the wrong message,” said McCarty, who said a business owner had recently complained to him. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Cindi McGuire owns Virginia Barbecue, which is located in the Shoppes at Eagle Harbor along Carrollton Boulevard. She recently put up two flags on the shopping center’s property to draw traffic to her business.

McGuire said that the way the center is laid out, as well as the abundance of trees on the property, makes it hard for passing motorists to see her restaurant — especially in the summer. The trees were part of the county’s landscaping ordinance that was in effect when the center was built in 2008.

However, based on an anonymous citizen complaint, Isle of Wight County sent the center owner a violation letter and ordered the flags taken down, she said.

Since the flags were removed, “It’s been dead as a doornail,” she said of business, adding that she was then told solid color flags could be used. McGuire’s flags, which cost $535, included the franchise’s trademark logo. It seems the logo was the problem, McGuire said, exasperated.

McGuire doesn’t understand the heavy restrictions.

“The more money we make, they makes,” she said of county meals tax revenue from selling barbecue, adding that many in the area don’t even know her restaurant is there because they can’t see it.

“No one is going to move here if you don’t have little businesses,” she said.  

McCarty was also concerned.

“These businesses are there to make money. To advertise … sometimes we desire to police our people too much,” he said.

The sign ordinance states that signs put up by a government body are exempt from the regulations — same with activities generated by the county in the noise ordinance.

“There are only a few ordinances providing exemptions for the county and they generally deal with public safety or the county taxing itself.  For example, the noise ordinance provides exemptions for the sirens of law enforcement and emergency response vehicles,” said Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson.

The county’s noise ordinance also exempts “any outdoor performance, parade, gathering, dance, concert show, sporting event or other event  sponsored by the county for which the county has granted a permit.”

Noise and signs are not the only area where Isle of Wight has exempted itself from its ordinances.

In 2009, as new businesses in Carrollton were reeling from the cost of having to install bike paths and large amounts of trees and shrubbery per the county’s ordinances, Isle of Wight exempted itself when building the new Young-Laine courts building.

The courts building, being located in the Courthouse Historic District, was required to plant 511 small and large trees. However, the Planning Commission approved a waiver from the builders and planted 367 trees instead.

Meanwhile, Travis Auto Repair, located along Route 17, was required to plant 63 trees, with most eight- to 10-feet tall, and 242 shrubs. The plants included Eastern redbuds, bald cypress, river birch, holly bushes and barberry. Travis Auto Repair was also required to plant 60 square feet of liriope and 2,400 square feet of bugleweed, according to the site plan.

After repeated complaints from businesses, the county began to rework its landscaping and setback requirements.

The strict ordinances were in reaction to high growth in the early part of the century and residents fear of Route 17 turning into another Mercury Boulevard.  {/mprestriction}