Haywood County residents rally to support signs DOT wants removed

Some Haywood County residents are not happy about the DOT's orders that a landowner remove signs along a busy highway in Haywood County. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Members of a mountain community got together Thursday to support what they consider to be a piece of their town's culture.

A debate has spurred in Waynesville over whether or not signs should be allowed on a piece of private property along a busy highway.

According to a Department of Transportation representative, the signs are not in compliance with state law.

People who got together to rally in support of the signs at the Haywood County Courthouse said this case should be an exception.

"There are bigger fish to fry than signs regarding hugging your kids," rally organizer Heather Hyatt said.

The signs in question sit on Richard Reeves' property along Highway 209 across from Lowes.

"Approximately 39 years ago, I put up the 'Have you hugged your kids sign,'" Reeves said.

He put it up for his daughter and said that what started it all.

Since then other people have approached him about advertising on that piece of land.

"I've never solicited any of those signs out there," Reeves said.

Some of the signs have positive messages, including a PSA about the dangers of opioid use.

Reeves said some of the money he gets from having the signs up goes to charity.

"He has tirelessly devoted his time and energy and efforts to great causes," Hyatt said.

Reeves said he does make nearly $10,000 a year for himself, which he hoped to put toward college tuition for his five grandchildren.

"If I can't have the signs up, then that's gone," Reeves said.

The problem is that having the signs up is against state law.

North Carolina law states that any outdoor advertising erected adjacent to the right of way of an interstate or primary highway system is illegal and constitutes a nuisance, according to a DOT representative.

"I understand laws and ordinances and public policy, but I do feel like an exception should be made because it's personal property," Hyatt said. "To see it removed, I don't know, it's a little painful."

A DOT representative said an official letter will be sent to Reeves telling him to remove the signs.

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