Sign Here?

Most of the time, the Planning and Zoning Commission deals with big issues: the heights of buildings. Setbacks. Wetlands. Those are important, very visible tasks; it’s not easy balancing the economic interests of landowners with the quality-of- life interests of residents (who may or may not be the same people).

Some times though, the P&Z deals with lesser issues that — in the end — are just as important.

Like signs.

Right now, elected officials are discussing regulations regarding free-standing business signs. You know — the ones advertising Michele’s pie tastings, or 20% off a pedicure in honor of Martin Luther King Day. (I’m making that up. I think).

Signs like these may be legalized -- though in smaller, more "homemade" form -- by the P&Z.

Rules — they must be small, hand-written on erasable boards or chalkboards, placed in an unobstructing spot or hung on the building, stuff like that — go into effect February 17.

For Saugatuck and the downtown area only.

Talks are underway to extend the regulations to the entire commercial district of Westport — up and down the Post Road.

Right now, those signs are illegal. The P&Z wants to bring order to the process — allowing merchants to advertise in a friendly, local way, without letting large, garish signs sprout willy-nilly.

But what about businesses outside the zone? Christie’s needs signs to draw attention to its Sunday farmers’ market. Daybreak Nursery announces items like firewood and holiday wreaths that way. Positano could highlight daily specials.

And what about Wakeman Town Farm, which could use signs to publicize upcoming workshops and its Community Supported Agriculture program?

What, then, about lawyers, chiropractors, marketing consultants — anyone who operates a home business outside of current business zones? Could they set up small, hand-written, free-standing signs too?

Right now the P&Z has no formal requests from any of those businesses. If there are, they will be addressed.

Signs are not a big deal like office buildings or movie theaters. But we do notice them; they do affect our quality of life. Just think of all the political signs we see for months leading up to elections, or the ones announcing upcoming concerts, road races and charity events that cover the little gardens at road intersections.

“06880” invites comments on this sign issue. Please be civil — and try to stay on topic.

31 responses to “Sign Here?

  1. Interesting, and not as clear cut as one might think. The clutter that signs provide the landscape has to be balanced by the need to inform. Typically, these signs are almost exclusively advertisements, but your comments on Wakeman Farms and others strike a note.

    I have lived in Michigan for many years since I left Connecticut, and they have a rather unusual way of handling these signs. Standing alone, they are prohibited. However, if a business hires someone to stand on the public easement, they can wear a sandwich board, dress up like a tiger or anything else and hold any signs they want while they are out there. I have always felt bad for those folks on the side of the road, advertising $5 pizzas, mani/pedi deals or what have you, but hey, it is a job that can provide some much needed cash for someone.

    BTW, I visited my father in town last wekend and braved the roads on Saturday and swung by “fortress” Staples – what a change from the “open campus” of my days (Class of ’76)!

    • THANKS, Chris — and yes, we have those “human sandwich boards” in Westport too (not many, though). I’ve always found them somewhat disturbing — I wondered if they couldn’t be hired to market a store in a less demeaning way (particularly during bad weather).

  2. Rats! Thought is was a story about “Free Pie Tasting”

  3. At this very moment I have a sign advertising ChowdaFest on Feb. 4. It fell down as the snow melted, so I’ll put it up again today. Yes, I want neighbors and friends, as well as everyone who drives along South Compo to see it. And I like to see others’ similar signs – Historical Society House Tour, or Saugatuck Nursery School sign-up – for example. Could we have a reg that says nonprofit groups can post such signs at residences?

  4. Richard Lawrence Stein

    I think signs in front of said establishments are fine… With a standard easy to understand guidance to there size, placement, and what not… But I have a huge issue with the signs that pop up on public property or state property promoting their businesses and other money making ways… It’s just clutter and visual noise… The only exceptions are political, charitable, or school oriented endeavor… And those signs need to have a time limit too.

  5. The Dude Abides

    “Stay on topic”? WTF? Ban all the signs. Let the establishments advertise in the newspapers allowing them to pay jounalists to actually cover an event or investigate a story.

    • What’s a newspaper?

      • Hell, I read two everyday and for you net-sters, you can get it on the screen.. Beats watching those bobblehead morons on televison to get some idea of WTF is happening in the world.

        • Who do you think writes for newspapers? There is a reason circulation has been declining for years. Newspapers are no longer relevant, they generate no reliable news or insights.

          • Disagree. Far more reliable than the various cites on the net. The weekly magazines have become fluff but some of the major newspapers still reliable and newsworthy (with a granted bias) Actually, the local rags are fairly informative as well.

            • Your experience is different from mine; I find the major newspapers to be very unreliable sources of information. Most of them have let the editorial content bleed over into what passes for news reporting. In addition, I have found on complex issues of public policy, those writing for newspapers are clueless.

              • The Dude Abides

                I grant you the bias but perhaps it is because I agree with those angles that I find it informative. So where do you get your news??? Certainly not the television??

                • I have noticed that a fair number of stories I hear on TV or radio were published first in newspapers. Sometimes, the radio reads them word for word.

                • The ticker; the only news items I find credible are market driven.

                  • Two points: One, in the NY Post, they actually site CNN as their source. GAD!! To “Blue Anonymous”, did you catch Stockman on PBS the other night where he pronounced that we have “crony-capitalism” now where there is no free market? It is manipulated by the multi-global corporations that indice our government to do whatever they so wish.

                    • How do you induce someone to do what they should not do? The devil made me do it? Every criminal/politician has an excuse as to why he/she betrayed the public trust. How did GM induce Ears to bail them out?

                    • The Dude Abides

                      It was Congress who bailed GM out and now they are the leading in car sales in the world after keeping many employed. The Stockman point was that there is so much corporate money in Congress that they dictate to Washington what they want passed and thus, “crony-capitalism.” His advocation,as is mine, is that contributions of any kind should be eliminated and there be publicly funded elections.

                    • We are going to disagree on the election issue. There should be no bailout of any private for profit entity. GM should either have reorganized or gone out of business. The $billions could have used better elsewhere.

                    • The Dude Abides

                      In any other context than following the Wall Street bailout, I would agree with you. The cash infusion to the 9 big banks was wrong and then they didn’t use it as specified. The auto industry was far more productive for Main Street.

                    • We could have saved the buggy whip industry; with enough taxpayer dollars.

                    • The Dude Abides

                      We could have given everyone health care without Iraq.

                    • Unfortunately Medicare has a $44 trillion unfunded liability. Ending one war would not have made much of a dent in that problem, but it would have been a start. Get your government funded healthcare while you can. The dam is about to break.

                    • The Dude Abides

                      Unfunded liabilities of Bush’s pill popping plan are horrendous. Interesting that your boy Paul and Newt advocated going back to the ’60’s for a future plan of dealing with health care costs in last night’s debate. Gad, talking about preferred care and we hardly had 300 million people then!

                    • Between Medicare and Social Security, there is little doubt that we will default on the entitlements or our debt or both. There will be no free lunch, but no one wants to tell the truth.

                    • The Dude Abides

                      We will survive. The negative flag wavers are about to get a positive boost of Reaganism from Ears. The GOP needs a draft.

                • Nothing Ears can do. We are cooked. The numbers will not add up no matter who does the adding, and with less than 3% real GDP growth the situation worsens each day. Did you get that second passport?

      • Sad reply.

  6. Recently, Michele’s Pies hired Groupon (one of the two main online coupon organizations) to offer a “$10 for a $20 coupon” on January 20th. The email was sent out around 8:30 a.m. When I thought, “Hey, that’s pretty cool” and clicked on it to order one around 11 am, ALL 530 coupons had been sold and the offer was shut down. I’ve never seen that happen before, so it just shows how popular Michele’s Pies are!

  7. Oops, Dan, I didn’t stay on topic. Sorry. 🙂

  8. A friend who lives near Old Greenwich tells me that the signage there has to be approved by — not a P&Z — but by the Garden Club! (Founded in the 1920s, its goal was to promote “civic beautification.”)

  9. Holly Wheeler

    When thinking about signs and whether to permit them to run ‘rampant’, think about what Westport (or any town) looks like before every election — and be guided by that sight.