Town considers changes to sign regulations

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jun. 30, 2011
At the June 28 public hearing, South Windsor Town Planner Michelle Lipe offers suggestions to the Planning and Zoning Commission on changes to the zoning regulations dealing with signs. Photos by Martha Marteney.
At the June 28 public hearing, South Windsor Town Planner Michelle Lipe offers suggestions to the Planning and Zoning Commission on changes to the zoning regulations dealing with signs. Photos by Martha Marteney.

On June 28, the South Windsor Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed zoning regulations dealing with signs and with the Buckland Road Gateway Development Zone. Commission alternates Gary Pitcock and Kevin Foley sat in for William Carroll, Jr., and David Sorenson, respectively.

Prior to the meeting, Shari Fiveash, executive director of the South Windsor Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supports the review of the regulations in order to keep the town uncluttered of signs, while still enabling businesses to promote themselves. “Both sides are working to find a happy medium,” said Fiveash, referring to the town and the businesses working together. She was pleased the planning department was seeking input from businesses.

According to Patrick Kennedy, chairperson of the P&Z, the town’s sign regulations are reviewed every four years. Town Planner Michelle Lipe addressed the P&Z to identify several possible revisions to the regulations that reflected enforcement issues. She noted that there have been inconsistencies with the temporary signs for non-profit organizations. The regulations allow the temporary signs for 90 days, which are intended for promotion of special events. She suggested reducing the timeframe to 60 days. Regarding temporary signs for businesses, which are permitted for only 15 days, Lipe recommended either limiting the number of signs or establishing a total square footage of temporary signage allowed.

At the last revision of the sign regulations, the ratio of lineal building frontage to sign size was reduced from 3 square feet to 1 square foot. Lipe said for many businesses, this creates too small a sign, especially if the building is set back from the road or is situated on a road with high traffic speeds. She suggested a minor increase to perhaps 1 and one-half square feet.

Currently, the regulations have provisions for town staff to approve certain variances relating to signs. “We haven’t been comfortable approving these at the staff level,” said Lipe. She asked the P&Z to consider other options for the variance approvals.

Lastly, Lipe noted that a new classification of signs will be coming to town in the form of advertising at bus shelters. There currently is no provision in the regulations to address such signs. Lipe asked that a new section be added to the regulations.

Several community members addressed the proposed revisions, all in support. Peter DeMallie agreed that the 1-to-1 lineal square footage ratio for business signs is insufficient, producing signs that are not effective.

Cary Prague, speaking as a citizen and a Chamber of Commerce Executive Board member, complimented the town for being supportive of businesses and recognizing that businesses need signs to expand and grow. He suggested establishing a sub-committee to further review the signage and offered assistance from the chamber and its membership.

Dick Kelly noted that the use of sandwich boards during business hours helps promote specials and attract local customers.

Sheryl Haraghy said putting out samples of her company’s signs has clearly brought in business. She also noted that some of the height restrictions are not applicable in certain locations due to the property layout and topography.

P&Z Vice Chairman Bart Pacekonis read a statement from Thomas Berestene, vice chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, who suggested utilizing national guidelines established by the United States Sign Council. These guidelines reflect the traffic speed and stopping distances when establishing sign sizes, rather than the traditional building frontage ratio.

Commissioner Mario Marrero asked Kennedy if the formation of a sub-committee was possible, which he confirmed. Pacekonis said he would also welcome the assistance from a sub-committee. Lipe was asked to return to a future meeting to discuss the matter further.

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