Quote of the Day - I see my face in the mirror and say, "I'm a Halloween costume? That's what they think of me?"
Just in time for Halloween, Raleigh, North Carolina has determined that kids dressed in costumes outside a costume store constitute a sign for the store. That's right, take a look at Part 10 (comes right after Part 14 in the Code), Chapter 2, Article E, section 10-2083.2. See if you can figure out how a kid dressed in a Halloween costume fits into this Ordinance. Here are the categories that qualify as signs:
- Announcement signs.
- Awning, marquee, and canopy signs.
- Changeable copy signs.
- Community watch signs.
- Directional signs.
- Directory signs.
- Ground low profile signs.
- Ground signs for double frontage lots.
- Ground medium profile signs.
- Ground high profile signs.
- Landmark signs.
- Product and information signs.
- Projecting signs.
- Temporary signs.
- Tract identification signs.
- Wall signs.
- Windblown signs.
I can't, and I'm a lawyer. I don't see the words "kids dressed in costumes" or anything even approaching that. Perhaps it's because I'm not licensed in North Carolina, and I just don't understand how they do things in Raleigh, just up the road from Mayberry. I used to live South of the Mason-Dixon line, but I still don't quite get it.
For that matter, neither does the mother of the kids, Louie Bowen, who also owns the offending costume shop, Hughie & Louie's. Her kids, 13 and 9, were dressed as Mrs. Claus and an elf. They earned a $100 ticket from Raleigh's zoning department for failure to have a permit. The editorial staff of the local paper, the News & Observer, is behind Mrs. Bowen, and has called on the mayor to intervene.
Meanwhile, the zoning department has threatened a $500 fine for a repeat violation. Of the sections on the list above, the Product Signs category looked like a possible fit, but the definition requires a sign of at least 32 feet. At 13 and 9, it's doubtful that the kids are that big. I wonder how Raleigh would treat headvertising, where you get paid to put an ad on your forehead.
N&O writer Josh Shaffer quoted Larry Strickland, Raleigh's inspections director, interpreting the sign Ordinance. "It could even be a person. If she's in the costume business and she's got people in costume out there, that could be a violation,'' the inspector claimed. The reporter goes on, "Bowen's violation note reads: 'The display of portable sign(s)/banner(s)/pennant(s)/ balloon(s) at the above location is a violation of Raleigh City Code Section 10-2083.2, which allows for the display of such signs only after the issuance of a thirty (30) day special event sign permit." An inspector scribbled an addendum: "This includes people dress up.' "
In protest, Ms. Bowen donned her own costume: a crushed velvet cape and faux-gold tiara and scepter. As the Halloween Queen, she's going to fight City Hall.
It seems to me that if you have a scepter, you can overrule City Hall.