Sign Ordinance Amendment Heads to Town Council

An amendment to the sign ordinance regarding businesses that have multiple tenants now goes to the Town Council for consideration. The amendment was discussed at the Wednesday, June 5, Planning Board meeting.

The signs involved are 24- by-36-inch A-frame sidewalk signs and would allow businesses to advertise within six feet of their entrance. Last month, building inspector-code enforcement officer Richard Canuel went before the Planning Board with a proposal to amend the zoning ordinance to give tenants in multi-tenant shopping centers an opportunity “to entice and perhaps capture people who are coming there for other purposes, to see what advantages or what sales the individual stores have,” Town Planner Cynthia May said.

May said that based on the recommendations made during that discussion, a new subsection would be added relating to A-frame sidewalk signs. The signs could be a maximum size of 24 inches wide and 36 inches tall and could be placed on the storefront sidewalk no further than 6 feet from the face of the building.

They could only be displayed during normal business hours. No permit would be required. Board member Maria Newman said she had seen similar signs around town outside of businesses on Mammoth Road, although the proposed amendment was for multi-tenant shopping centers only. “So what’s going to happen with those signs that are around town?” she asked.

Chairman Art Rugg said that would be a code enforcement issue and not the responsibility of the Planning Board. Board member Al Sypek asked what “normal business hours” were and was told by May and Rugg that there was nothing in the regulations defining them.

Board member Tom Freda read a portion of the zoning code and asked to be told what the difference was with the proposed amendment. He read, “Free standing (ground) signs: one ground sign is permitted to each parcel having frontage on a public right of way.”

Pointing to an A-frame sign set up as a display, Freda said, “that’s freestanding.”
May said the definition of “freestanding” was that it was permanently affixed to the ground. Freda asked if that definition was in the code and May said she did not know.
“I couldn’t find it, maybe in some dictionary, but it seems like it’s standing all by itself,” Freda said.

“It may be in there – I didn’t take the time to look – but the intent is that it’s not on the building face,” May said. Freda responded that the A-frame sign is not on the building face either and an ordinance seemed superfluous, although he added he was “OK with it.”

“This is government. We are superfluous,” board member Mary Wing Soares said.
Freda suggested being more specific because zoning enforcement officers need to know what the law is. May said there was a difference between A-frame sidewalk signs and the freestanding ground signs on the street.

“We’ll make sure that there is not a conflict. If there isn’t a definition of a freestanding sign, then we’ll come back to this board to recommend one,” May said.
Resident Ann Chiampa raised a concern regarding handicap access, given the size and placement of the signs on the sidewalk. She said the signs could block access down the sidewalk. She was assured there would be enough room because of regulations regarding access and mobility of handicapped persons.

May added that all the board was doing was sending a recommendation to the Town Council. Soares made a motion to recommend acceptance to the Town Council and board member John Laferriere seconded it. The measure passed unanimously.

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