WINDHAM — After the third public hearing on Thursday, the Windham Town Council delayed the vote that would legalize sandwich board signs for more time to iron out the details on the law, during the regular town board meeting April 12.
“We’ve waited this long,” said Town Councilman Don Murray, who brought up concerns about what he called overly restrictive language in the draft.
Sandwich board signs have long been banned in Windham, until late last year when owners of the Windham Spa challenged the town’s 2005 sign law, saying the law limited their visibility and bottom line.
Since then, Town Councilman Ian Peters has been working on a new draft with input from businessses, the architectural board, and community members.
“The changes are noncontroversial,” Peters said during the meeting. “I’ve got a lot of good feedback from business owners, and people interested in historic preservation of the town — older residents and younger residents.”
“We’re in touch with fellow businesses in town and it seems everyone is going to benefit,” said Sadhbh Lavery, manager of the Windham Spa.
“The sign brings in enough business to keep everybody gainfully employed with a healthy salary and business,” Lavery added, noting the spa employs seven full-time staff members. “A prosperous main center of town is prosperous for the entire community.”
The revisions would allow business owners to stand 25 by 45 inch sandwich signs within 200 feet of their building, as long as the signs are removed after business hours and during snowstorms, and do not impede traffic, according to the most recent sign law draft. Digital billboards and LED-lit signs will be banned, except for the signs that indicate gas prices, Peters said during Thursday’s meeting.
“At night they’re pretty offensive, they’re very bright,” said Town Supervisor Bob Pelham after the meeting, noting three digital billboard signs in neighboring towns.
Councilman Murray disagred with language indicating that temporary real estate directional signs would be banned, as would neon signs on the inside of private windows.
“Back in ‘93, they tried to prohibit neon signs inside of businesses and about 60 people showed up that were very upset about this,” he said, noting he’s uncomfortable issuing restrictions on private activity. “Once you’re inside the home or business, I don’t want to regulate that,” said Murray after the meeting. “As town board, that’s not my job.”
Peters plans to revise language to spell out that the board will not regulate internal signs, he said. In addition, he noted that the for-sale real estate sign ban was unintentional.
“We scrapped that,” Peters said after the meeting. “Further down there’s a blanket exemption of those [signs], so it wasn’t internally consistent.”
Murray also suggested the town board issue sandwich board signs via a special use permit with a two-year renewal, to regulate sign spacing and volume without overburdening the planning board.
“There are 47 businesses from 296 to the end of South Street on Route 23 alone,” Murray said. “If everyone decided to put out a sandwich board, that would be kind of ridiculous.”
“Since it’s a new type of sign, we’d be a gatekeeper at the beginning of the process,” Peters said after the meeting, “with the goal of getting rid of that extra step in the near future.”
After detailing his proposed changes, Murray, who brought his written comments to the meeting, suggested more time to review the draft after receiving it Tuesday night. The board unanimously approved a motion to delay the vote until the next regular town board meeting on April 26.
“The Windham Chamber of Commerce highly recommends approval of a revision to the town sign law that would permit sandwich boards,” said Windham Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Lisa Jaeger, reading from a prepared statement during the public hearing. “This issue has been a concern of our members for some time.”
“I was comfortable with it [the sign law draft],” Pelham said after the meeting. “Couple things are redundant but not life threatening, so we’ll be back in two weeks.”
In general, Pelham said the revisions have proceeded smoothly.
“People have been very supportive and Ian [Peters] 0.did a great job with it,” he said.