Chester Planning Commission begins drafting sign law, comments still sought

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2015  Telegraph Publishing LLC

Having taken several hours of testimony from business owners and residents at two earlier meetings, the Chester Planning Commission met on Monday, Jan. 12 to discuss and organize the work of revising the town’s sign ordinance. Commission chair Tom Bock referred to the complexity of the work ahead. “We’ve taken a lot of testimony, gotten a lot of ideas,” said Bock, “I’m at a loss on how to start. Any ideas?”

Commission member Naomi Johnson suggested that the group summarize the main “takeaway” points that the board had heard during the information gathering hearings. These included:

  • the effect of speed limits on sign visibility
  • internal vs. external illumination (and understanding the new technologies lighting signs)
  • options for signs when a lot has a large frontage
  • temporary signs
  • enforcement (including how to handle the signs of closed businesses)
  • regulations for sign plazas

Several members thought that the overall message from businesses was the desire for more flexibility in regulating signs. The board also discussed how to handle temporary signs, questions of enforcement and the relationship between sign size and the speed limit of the road where the sign is located. Members wondered how best to write an ordinance that would be fair from district to district with varying speed limits.

Zoning administrator Michael Normyle noted that several communities have outlawed real estate “For Sale” signs and he wondered if this was a direction that the town wanted to go. Other board members questioned the existing definition of a sign in the regulations, pointing out that anything to attract attention to a business is considered a sign.

This would include artwork on Jersey Girls Cafe and Erskine’s Grain and Supplies, Bill Lindsay’s British telephone booth and the metal sculptures in front of the 103 Artisans Gallery among many others. “The cornerstone of the ‘mason’s’ building is a sign,” said board member Tom Hildreth, pointing to the symbol on it. Any of these “signs” that are not covered by a sign permit are technically illegal.

The commission decided to begin the work by reviewing and setting the definitions for many of the terms to be used – some of which have never been defined in this statute – then move on to general standards for signs, special signs (including temporary signs) prohibited signs and the illumination of signs.

Assistant to the town manager  Julie Hance was asked to construct an outline for moving forward with the process. The Planning Commission’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at Town Hall, 556 Elm St. in Chester. The focus of the meeting will again be signs. The public is encouraged to attend and comment.

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  1. Cindi Farnsworth says:

    Would like to see signs of businesses no longer open removed from roadsides.They are an eyesore and take away from the beauty of the town and also take attention away from businesses that are actually open.