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The Daily Tar Heel

Town mulls lifting signage restrictions

Aloft Chapel Hill has a modern architectural style that stands out, but hotel management is worried the hotel is being hurt by town restrictions on its signage.

“Every Aloft has their signage on the top floor except for Aloft Chapel Hill,” said Mark Sherburne, general manager of the hotel. “It has greatly diminished our visibility.”

On Monday night, the Chapel Hill Town Council discussed amending the height limit on signage in an effort to increase visibility for local businesses.

According to the town’s land use management ordinance, wall signage for Chapel Hill businesses is limited to the second floor.

Because of this, Sherburne said Aloft Chapel Hill’s signage is on the second floor and has plain white lighting — instead of the colored lighting used at some of Aloft’s more than 100 locations worldwide.

The amendment discussed by the Town Council Monday would allow signs near the roof-line of a building.

It could also allow smaller shopping centers such as Fordham Square and Glen Lennox to install larger commercial ground signs.

Businesses might also be able to display more ground signage.

“We need to help businesses prosper in Chapel Hill, and ensuring residents know where to find businesses is going to create a friendly business environment,” said Town Council member Lee Storrow.

Storrow said he sees Aloft’s clean and single-colored logo as an example of why the change is needed.

“It feels like there’s a corporate strategy connected to the architectural structure,” Storrow said.

Kristen Smith, director of public policy and member engagement at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“Many of our members and ourselves — we find the current ordinance long, unwieldy and too restrictive,” she said in an email.

But council member Matt Czajkowski said he is concerned with the aesthetics and maintenance of signage at the top of buildings.

“The Aloft sign is as good as it is, but if the O and T has gone out of light, how might that look?” Czajkowski asked. “And does it have to be the top of the building? Why can’t it be on the third floor?”

Council member Sally Greene also questioned the need for increasing the maximum height limit for Aloft, citing the fact that Aloft hotels tend to be located near airports or urban areas surrounded by similarly tall buildings.

“I think the current logo has a distinct look and is very visible,” she said. “But I’m certainly open to more research and information.”

Erin Dale, director of sales at Courtyard by Marriott in Chapel Hill, said finding a balance between business and town interests is possible.

“Seventy percent of our business is people coming from out of town and doing business in Chapel Hill,” she said. “It’s important that our signage can help them navigate in Chapel Hill.”

The Town Council will hold a public hearing to consider the ordinance amendment on March 25.

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