Restaurant sign issue settled

NEW CUMBERLAND-A New Cumberland restaurateur has beat the rap on a state complaint charging him with improperly displaying a sign.

The case against Mark McCartney, owner of MJ’s Midtown Diner, was dismissed earlier this week after Hancock County Magistrate Michael White found McCartney to be in compliance with the law.

McCartney was charged with displaying an outdoor advertising sign without a state license, a misdemeanor that can bring a fine of up to $500. The sign, he said, had the restaurant’s name, its hours of business and an arrow.

McCartney, who called the charge “ridiculous,” took ownership of the business from his parents, Dale and Donna McCartney, former proprietors of the Mid-Ridge Cafe on Ridge Avenue. The latter was razed in January to make way for a Dollar General store that opened in May.

McCartney said he didn’t know he was flouting the law when he erected a 2-by-3-foot sign about 5 feet from state Route 2 several months ago. The West Virginia Code prohibits the erection of an outdoor advertising sign within 660 feet of the nearest edge of a state highway.

The code also states that whoever wants to erect an outdoor advertising sign first must obtain a license and a permit from the state commissioner of highways.

McCartney said a woman, who he later learned was an inspector with the West Virginia Department of Transportation, came into the restaurant after seeing the sign by the side of the road and said it had to be moved.

“She gave me 60 days to move it. I went out there in 10 days and moved it back another 10 feet,” he said.

McCartney said the woman returned and said the sign had to be moved even more, so he moved it to within 50 feet of the restaurant’s front door. He said the woman finally told him the sign had to be removed altogether, whereupon she filed a charge in Magistrate Court.

McCartney said he didn’t understand the charge because his parents operated their restaurant, complete with a 10-by-8-foot sign, within 20 feet of state Route 2 (Ridge Avenue) for years.