They gently sway in the breeze against the Mount Airy skyline, flashing catchy slogans and colorful designs to promote some festival or other upcoming event. But the overhead street banners erected downtown aren’t always safe.
When improper materials are used and subjected to adverse weather conditions such as high winds, they pose a threat to the public by falling down on unsuspecting pedestrians or motorists, city officials say.
“I’ve seen this happen,” Commissioner Dean Brown said at a council meeting Thursday night when officials addressed the problem with the large banners that extend over both lanes of traffic.
Brown relayed a first-hand experience that occurred as he walked through the central business district a couple of years ago. “And one fell at my feet, almost, so it is a dangerous thing,” he said.
Commissioner Brown and his fellow board members subsequently approved tightened regulations in a 5-0 vote, which city planner Andy Goodall hopes will prevent banners falling and possibly hurting someone below.
“This was brought to me by the owner of Mayberry Toy Co.,” Goodall explained regarding the reason for the safety element being addressed. City police also have reported problems with banners coming down at times.
The commissioners’ response included amending the section of the Mount Airy Code of Ordinances governing overhead banners for approved festivals or special events.
Those changes specify that a banner must:
• Be made of vinyl material and be no less than 18 ounces in weight;
• Not exceed 30 feet in length and 2.5 feet in height (reduced from a previous 3 feet), while limited to two dimensions;
• Have grommets (rings inserted into holes with grooves or collars to hold them in place, which can be used to prevent tearing or to cover sharp edges of the punched or cut holes) every 2 feet on the tops and bottoms of banners. All four corner grommets must be reinforced;
• Include sewn hems on all four sides with 1 inch of webbing;
• Have wind slits every 4 feet and at least 4 inches wide.
“I think that’s one of the issues,” Goodall said of the lack of wind resistance with the banners. “They’ve been tearing and coming down.”
Among other requirements, overhead street banners may be erected no earlier than 20 days before an event, and will be removed within two days afterward.
All banners must be approved by the city planning department before being displayed. When a single sponsorship is involved, the sponsor’s name or logo may not exceed 25 percent of the overall display area.
A $25 fee must be paid per event to the city government for installing and removing the banners, in addition to a zoning permit fee. The banner fee is waived in the case of Mayberry Days and the Autumn Leaves Festival, the largest two events held in Mount Airy each year.
Overhead banner permits will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis, with the exception of Mayberry Days and the Autumn Leaves Festival. Banner display dates from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15 are reserved for those events.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.