By Jesse Wood
A local business owner claims that she is being “railroaded” by Boone’s Planning and Inspections’ department because she hasn’t been able to obtain a sign permit for her business on N.C. 105.
Catalyna Leath operates Psychic Visions out of a leased residential home at 1296 N.C. 105, which is located in between Troy’s Diner and a vacant building/property that used to be home to a faith-based thrift store.
“My place of business is being railroaded and I am being denied my constitutional rights and my freedom of speech to advertise my business by [Boone Planning and Inspections],” Leath said.
The home that Leath is leasing is below the highway and isn’t easily visible from the motorists and passengers zooming by. So Leath has previously advertised her business on her Chevy Tahoe that is parked on what she says is her property.
“It’s on my driveway, but they are saying it’s not mine,” Leath said.
When the thrift store parcel was sold, Leath said that her troubles with signage began. She went to obtain a sign permit but hasn’t yet been able to secure one.
Christy Turner, a planner with the Town of Boone, disagreed with Leath’s property line assessment and said that the Leath must acquire a change-of-use permit before the planning office can approve the sign permit.
“She was parked on somebody else’s land,” said Turner.
Turner noted that the property Leath is leasing is landlocked with no highway frontage. Turner said that if Leath wanted to put up a sign along the highway it would have to be an off-premise sign, which means it would have to be located on another parcel other than the one where the business is located.
Turner says that Leath currently has a sign on her home that is too big for home occupation. A home occupation sign is allowed in all the zoning districts, but the sign must not be illuminated, must be mounted flat on the building and may not exceed four square feet in size, according to the town’s ordinances.
“There is no way traffic can see a two-by-two sign on the house,” Leath said.
Turner said that the ordinance regarding home occupation sign is written so that these signs, which are normally in residential areas, aren’t too obtrusive to the neighbors.
The residential property in question is grandfathered-in in an area that is zoned B-3 for general business, and Turner said for the permit application to be approved, the property owner must apply for a change-of-use permit.
If the property is rezoned, it can’t be reversed.
But Leath isn’t thrilled about this option either even though the property owner is on board for whatever Leath wants to do. Leath said that it takes weeks to have a property rezoned and that it could end up costing her up to $1,000.
“Another reason, if I rezone the whole house business then I won’t be able to live in it,” Leath said.
Turner said her office continues to work with the Leath and her husband while they decide to settle for a home occupation sign or rezone the property.
“We’ve given them all the proper paperwork. The only thing they’ve followed through with is the sign permit [application]. We are not allowed to issue a sign permit on commercial piece of property until the change of use is submitted and approved,” Turner said.