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October 11, 2012

Board reviews revised sign law

The board of trustees met in a special session last Friday morning to review the revised village sign law. The mayor and trustees decided on some changes — primarily in the regulation of event or personal point of view signs.

The revised law is the result of 18 months work by the planning board to update the current law.

Planning board chairman Charlie Hill told the mayor and trustees that part of the impetus for the revision came about when, a year-and-a-half ago, the planning board began to worry about new types of signs coming into more widespread use. Some of them were illuminated moving or animated signs.

“They were non-traditional signs. Signs that didn’t fit in our sign law,” Hill said. “There were all kinds of new technologies coming on board. The board got kind of scared and said if this is the future, we’d better be ready for it.”

While many of the potential changes will be reviewed and discussed during the next board of trustees meeting, members did make some changes to law dealing with event of personal point of view signs.

Mayor Jeff Katz told Hill that it was a freedom of speech issue and he was uncomfortable with a restriction on the number of event or personal point of view signs a person could place in his or her yard.

Hill said the courts have ruled that municipalities may establish reasonable standards to regulate that category of sign as long as the regulations were content neutral.

“What we’re proposing takes the content out of it,” Hill said.

“I have a concern that I could have only one sign,” said Trustee Ellen Tillapaugh.

That concern was echoed by Trustee Lynne Mebust, who said, she was “uncomfortable limiting the number of signs people can put up.”

Board members decided to remove the limit on the number of event or personal point of view signs.

The board also discussed the sign holders directing people to businesses on Main and Pioneer streets.

Trustee Cindy Falk commented that she didn’t think sign holders and the placard signs they hold are effective. She also said the village has not followed through on maintenance the way it was supposed to.

“The holders have declined due to a lack of maintenance,” Falk said.

Tillapaugh said she believed the signs are attractive and Trustee Jim Dean said he thought that to not have them would be “a negative.”

Katz also asked Hill if it would be possible streamline the process and allow people to skip coming to planning board for approval if they were going to use a legal sign that was properly sized.

Hill said there is still the requirement that the sign’s color scheme has to be compatible with the building on which it is placed so that it does not detract from the architecture of the building.

Trustee Frank Capozza said he would love to allow people to go without coming to the planning board for approval, but was uncertain if that was a good idea.

Dean also registered some concern. He suggested making the review faster, but still require applicants to come to the planning board.

Katz said he would like to see the process work smoother for the applicant.

When the planning board held a public informational meeting about the revised sign law, Capozza asked about window signs affixed to the glass and why they were limited to 25 percent of the area of the glass and brought it up again during Friday’s meeting.

Why limit it to 25 percent if a business owner can hang a sign just inside the glass and cover the entire window? Capozza asked.

Hill said it’s a legitimate question and that window signs have been treated in many different ways.

“It’s kind of been a very, very loose situation,” Hill said.

The planning board exempted the display area inside the window and regulates only two things — neon signs in the display and the sign affixed to the window glass.

“My view is leave out the ‘less than 25 percent,’” Capozza said.

“We did not think it was appropriate to block off the entire window surface,” Hill said. “Out best judgment was 25 percent.”

“I believe there are health and safety issues,” Falk said.

Mebust said she would agree with Capozza. If it is not an issue now, she thinks it is unlikely business owners will do it now, especially if they can hang something just inside the window and cover the entire area.

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