Town Says Fat Pelican Octopus Must Go: Violates Sign Ordinance

Town Says Fat Pelican Octopus Must Go: Violates Sign Ordinance Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 18 March 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach notified Danny McLaughlin - owner of the Fat Pelican Bar on South Lake Park Blvd - that a large octopus recently placed atop the building will have to be removed because it violates the Town's zoning ordinance.
Brenda Butler - Community Organization Officer for the Town - explained Monday March 16th the octopus is in violation of Article 11, Section  11.4 of the Town's zoning ordinance governing "signs".
McLaughlin obtained the sign from the former Seafest Restaurant at the corner of Lake Park Blvd and Carl Winner Street near the Town's Municipal Marina. That restaurant closed last year and a new restaurant is preparing to open in the same location. 
The octopus was located on a small roof over the front entrance.
Butler said the difference between the former location and its current location on the roof of the Fat Pelican is clear. At the former location the octopus was on an "awning" and not on top of the roof. There was also a crab erected on the roof of that restaurant and the Town made them remove it.
In the case of the Fat Pelican, the octopus is on the "roof" and not an "awning" or other permitted location.
12,364 people viewed a post on the Island Gazette's Facebook page between 4:30PM Monday and press time Tuesday night. Hundreds of people were commenting on the topic in various posts throughout the day. Nearly all of them were postive and in support of keeping the octopus.
Former Mayor Bob Lewis commented, "How is it a sign, he does not sell fish or calamari. It does not advertise beer. This is nonsense" and, "Must have changed the ordinance recently because the interpretation was that it is a sign if it has something that refers to your business. This is just an art form."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth commented, "Personally I like it there. I think it fits perfectly and it should stay. I said the sign ordinance was difficult to enforce. May be in the minority but I already said something to management."
Rick Nail commented, "It's not a sign. It's an ocean creature on a building at the beach. Tourist will love it, along the Locals. Town officials should "get over it" and enjoy the tourist money!"
Mayor Dan Wilcox commented, "Don't kill the messenger, but our ordinance does not allow roof mounted signs. The old seafood place originally had two items mounted. They were required to take down the one on the main roof, but allowed to keep the one on the lower entrance roof. That was a staff interpretation. Council does not make these determinations, but there are two options for Danny. 1: challenge staff's interpretation, or 2: ask council to consider an ordinance change. Again, this is a longstanding ordinance, so I'm just sharing here"
Wilcox explained, "I expect they could keep it up if they were in an appeal or requesting an ordinance change, as that has been the past practice with other situations."
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Keith Bloemendaal explained, "Unless my Town of Carolina Beach Zoning Ordinance book is outdated (issued to me last year) here is what it says: Sec11.4(j) Roof Signs are prohibited. Definition of a roof sign: Any sign erected or constructed upon the roof of any building and supported solely by the roof of the building."
Bloemendaal explained, "Definition of a "sign": Any surface, fabric, device, or display which bears lettered, pictorial, or sculptured matter, including forms shaped to resemble any human, animal, or product, designed to convey information visually and which is exposed to public view. Obviously this is on the roof, what is not obvious is whether it meets the definition of a "sign".
The part that would be questionable to me is "designed to convey information visually" in the definition. Exactly what information is this designed to convey? Fat Pelican doesn't serve octopus, or any food for that matter. They serve beer."
He explained, "According to this ordinance, there are a whole bunch of other "roof signs" in this town. As I read it, a sign would be something to tell me either with words, or visually what that business offers. This doesn't appear to do that (to me). According to this ordinance, Subway, Deck House, and every business in the strip next to Ace Hardware (Pleasure Island Insurance, etc..) are all not conforming to this ordinance. Something else to note is that Article 11 was amended in 2010, so many may be "non-conforming" but allowed. Anyway, my personal opinion (for what it's worth) is this should have never been an issue, it isn't a "sign" as it doesn't convey any actual information. I understand the crab being removed from the old Seafood Buffet, they actually served crab on their menu. This, I don't understand."
On Tuesday March 17th, McLaughlin said he met with Butler that morning and had figured out a plan over the weekend. He said, "I told her I would remove it from the roof and place it on it on posts near the area where I keep our trashcans."
He said, "I don't hate Brenda, she's a really nice person and was caught in a hard place."
He said, "99% of the people in Town like it and don't want to see it removed. I don't have to remove it quick, I'm not under any pressure from the Town at this point."
He said, "I'm trying to work with the Town. It will be a little lower and easier to see and I'm only moving it about eight feet away."
He said if he wasn't allowed to display the Octopus, his alternate plan was to put it in the back of his pickup truck and occasionally park it at Town Hall for tourists to see next to their entrance sign.

The octopus at it's previous location at the former Seafest Restaurant at the corner of Lake Park Blvd and Carl Winner Street in Carolina Beach. That restaurant closed last year and now the octopus sits atop the Fat Pelican.

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