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September 20, 2012

Village planning board listens to comments on sign law

-- — The planning board conducted a public information session at the begining of its meeting Tuesday to answer questions and accept comment about proposed revisions to the village sign law.

The board spent 18 months and reviewed more than 30 laws from other municipalities in the process of revising the law, according to board chairman Charlie Hill.

“This was not an esay task. When we started out I think we were a little naive,” Hill the told the audience of fewer than a dozen people. “I think we got it right.”

Hill said he believed the revision is very balanced and took into account the needs of the business community as well as the community’s interest in avoiding visual clutter.

The revised law is clearly written in outline form and is “far more comprehensive than our present law,” Hill said. He described the results of their work as reasonable, consistent with federal and state laws and very flexible.

The revised law, Hill explained, has an expanded list of definitions — three times the number in the present law.

The definitions are “very, very important,” Hill said.

The vagueness in some areas of the present law has allowed for differing interpretations depending on the changing make-up of the planning board.

“We wanted to make sure the definitions were clear so there was no ambiguity and it did not have to be interpreted,” he said.

After his opening remarks, the session was opened up to comments and questions.

Trustee Frank Capozza said the board had done a “heck of a job.”

Capozza said he was questioned by a businessman about why the planning board cared if he covered up his entire storefront window with signs?

The law allows window signs — those affixed to the glass — as long as they do not occupy more than 25 percent of the window.

Planning board member Richard Blabey said the board felt that in the business district it was important for people to be able to see inside a business establishment before entering and at the same time for those inside to be able to see out. It was, he said, a public safety issue.

“What you have done is very, very, impressive,” said former mayor Wendell Tripp, who asked about the banners hung over Main Street. They are, he said, a potential problem.

“I know banners have caused problems in the past,” he said.

The banners are intended for not-for-profit organizations to announce their events, but those events are sometimes held at for-profit venues.

The banners must be permitted by the board of trustees and not the planning board.

“They’re a difficult thing to deal with,” Tripp said.

“I think this is incredible. I think you’ve done a fabulous task putting this together,” said Trustee Ellen Tillapaugh.

She asked if the sign with the name of her business on her vehicle was allowed under the law after reading a section of the law dealing with the use of vehicle to advertise a business and was told by Blabey that it was legal.

Another trustee, Cindy Falk, who had been a member of the planning board until joining the board of trustees earlier this year, asked about “open flags.”

“I don’t see them specifically addressed,” she said.

Hill told her that open signs are exempt from regulation as long as they don’t exceed two square feet. Larger projecting open signs are limited to 12 square feet and must be permitted, he said.

The planning board intended to discuss if there should be any last-minute changes to the law before sending it to the board of trustees. The trustees would be required to hold a formal public hearing before the revised law could be adopted.

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