Chip Stephens And Al Gratrix: Westport’s Newest “De-signers”

The town ordinance on signs is pretty clear.

Local organizations can post them for fundraisers: Library book sales, Yankee Doodle Fair, Sunrise Rotary duck race.

Political signs are okay — during election season. As with charity signs, they must be removed promptly.

no signsCommercial signs are strictly regulated. They must be portable. They can’t be attached to a utility pole or fence. They can be displayed only during hours that a business is open. They must be on a “framed chalk board or eraser board.” All of the wording must be hand-drawn. And commercial signs must be located on the property where the business is located.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Anyone with more than 20/2000 vision knows those rules are frequently flouted. Several years ago — in the depths of the recession — 1st Selectman Gordon Joseloff eased the sign regulation. But the ordinance in place now — cited above — is pretty clear.

Al Gratrix is head of the Planning and Zoning Commission‘s enforcement committee. Chip Stephens is the the P&Z chair.

A couple of weeks ago, they started picking up illegal signs. They pulled 100 or so: non-handwritten business signs. Signs advertising office space. Signs for roofers and handymen, tacked 8 feet high on telephone polls.

Al Gratrix with some of the illegal signs.

Al Gratrix with some of the illegal signs…

Just as quickly, the signs reappeared.

Al and Chip went back on the prowl. On Saturday, they yanked 80 more.

Their task may be Sisyphean. (Or, to use a truer Westport reference, dandlelion-esque.)

But it’s an important one. Want to know one of the biggest blights on Westport’s beauty?

The signs are all around us.

...and more signs.

…and more signs.


21 responses to “Chip Stephens And Al Gratrix: Westport’s Newest “De-signers”

  1. Mark Mathias

    If the signs are illegal, how about a phone call to the people to advise them of their infraction and give them a chance to remove the signs? If the signs re-appear, how about sending the people a citation, including whatever financial impact that is commensurate with the infraction?

  2. Mary Ruggiero

    Sound like a sensible idea.

  3. John Karrel

    Kudos to Mssrs. Stephens & Gatrix. Keep it up. The improvement is remarkable.
    If you seek volunteer de-signers, sign me up. (Dan has my contact info.)

  4. Philip Ross

    Great job. The people putting up these illegal signs know what they are doing – Its a cheap form of advertising, let them pay to advertise in the local paper so they can have great writers like you Dan. .

    The police should be made aware of this change so they are encouraged to help out in this process. When they see someone illegally parked blocking an intersection or on the side of the road, so they can put up a sign, they should give a 1st warning then a ticket for traffic infraction and for littering . .
    Westporters should clean up their neighborhoods of commercial signs littering public property. It should be a team effort.

  5. James Holmes

    No Nado Paving signs on the top of the stack? I think they’re the worst offender!!

    I agree that a call and then tickets for repeat offenders will eventually get the message across.

  6. Michael Calise

    Great Work!

  7. Jeff Jacobs

    Of course, I HATE those signs and I LOVE what Gratrix and Stephens are doing. However, like many other commenters, I’d prefer that the proper authorities – police? zoning enforcement? – enforce any sanctions against illegal signs and their owners. Otherwise, herd behavior has a tendency to become a lynch mob: the justice system isn’t doing its job, so let’s just take the law into our own hand.

  8. Don Bergmann

    I am delighted with Al and Chip’s efforts. I did the same for a while until I was advised by P&Z Dir. Bradley, which was confirmed by Chief Call ,that, as a private citizen it was illegal for me to go on public/town/state property and remove an illegally placed, commercial sign. I would have delivered the signs to the Police Dept. I asked Dir. Bradley if I could be authorized to do that by P&Z and Chief Call if I could be “deputized” to do that as well. I was advised, with some regret by both Larry and Dale, that neither the P&Z nor the Police wanted to grant a citizen a right to remove illegal, commercial signs on public property. Maybe this present dialogue will generate a different outcome..
    Don Bergmann

  9. This story made my day. Way to go guys!

  10. So to Don’s point, who’s responsible for enforcement of this (and other) P&Z ordinances? Al and Chip are elected officials. Does that empower them to take action, or is this right/responsibility reserved for Town Administration? What’s the process? What are the consequences of non-compliance? We all agree that these signs are an eyesore. What’s the right way to get them to go away?

  11. arline gertzoff

    How about lost animal signs on utility poles?.Nothing should be on utility poles. Tag sale signs are everywhere.The worst part is people forgetting to take them down when the event is over and when they get wet. We have pretty much gotten rid of most plastic bags via an ordinance so perhaps a clear cut ordinance is in order/or we could end up with people deciding themselves to take signs down.

  12. All elected Planning and Zoning Commission members have enforcement powers.

    • Carol Luciano Swan and Chris Swan

      State statute in effect for many years prohibits attachment of signs to any utility pole and allows for fines up to $50 per sign and assumes enforcement by local municipal officials.

    • John Hartwell

      Thanks Cathy. Who else is empowered? What should a citizen do who sees a sign that shouldn’t be there? Who should we call and what response should we expect?

  13. Sally Campbell Palmer

    Can’t say I;ve ever seen these signs going up…..Midnight Cowboys? And how do they get them 20 ft off the ground without being seen?

  14. Every town I’ve ever been in has paper, handmade signs for weight loss, work from home, lost dog, house cleaning, roofing, lawn mowing, and other services on street light poles, telephone and electric poles, tree trunks and bus stop benches. They’re an urban blight. Maybe Westport’s efforts ought to reach a wider (read: national) audience so that other blighted cities could follow suit and clean up their towns.

    Next job: panhandlers in the middle of the street at traffic intersections who hold up signs asking for money….On nice days you drive through town with your windows rolled up because they come right up to you when you’re stopped at a traffic light, lean in the car and ask for money…..

    • John McCarthy

      Aside from exit 17, where are there panhandlers in the street? I’ve only seen them at exit 17.

  15. Chip & Al are my heroes! Signs in our beautiful town have become what ads are now on WestportNow. They’re everywhere. Ever wonder why communities with their utilities buried underground just seem more pleasing? It’s the lack of visual clutter. Nantucket prohibits real-estate signage. There are over 230 signs at Compo beach. Every table, every fence, amazingly, there are 6 signs just to tell you that if your kayak gets ripped-off, your out of luck. Who needs two signs to tell them that they are at Compo Beach? Lets hope the “Compo Park” folks plan to remove as many signs as possible.

  16. I am in agreement with pretty much everything that you mentioned entirely! Excellent website document! dadgkedkadbd

  17. I’m a Norwalk resident who has been taking down these signs for the last year. I’ve complained about them to p&z but no one does anything. Westports problem is Norwalks problem. It would be great if the towns worked together to make sure these signs go away.

  18. Would be helpful is the signs didn’t work. Somebody must be calling these people making it worth their while.
    Agree, would be nice to fine these polluters.