P&Z Signs Off: The Sequel

I was busy this afternoon, posting a story about the Planning & Zoning Department’s decision to remove all illegal signs from town-owned property.

Chip Stephens and Al Gratrix were busy too.

They did the actual removal.

The P&Z Commissioners — call them the “De-Signers” — uprooted several dozen offending placards, all over town. Many were in otherwise handsome traffic islands and gardens, like those at the eastern end of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Post Road bridge. (Regulations concerning such signs have been in place since at least 2002.)

A small bit of Chip Stephens and Al Gratrix’s haul.

They’re not finished.

Every illegal sign — even those for beloved institutions like the Westport Library book sale — is fair game, Chip says.

(Photos/Chip Stephens)

Westport’s streetscape is changing. The signs are everywhere.


39 responses to “P&Z Signs Off: The Sequel

  1. Bob Stalling

    They should have called “Hauling Unlimited” to remove the signs…

  2. Getting rid of signs is great! It’s a long time problem and one that really degrades the community character.

    But is this a serious, long term solution that individual P&Z members will work as the sign removal squad in perpetuity? What will the schedule and coverage be for that? Is there a number to call or a website we can submit violations in expectation that a P&Z member will drive over and remove a sign? – Chris Woods

  3. Eleanor Sasso

    What about political and other signs that are on roadways, barely on private property. Does the town have a right of way separating town line from where private property ( our mailboxes) begins?

  4. Holly Wheeler

    I’ve often thought that a monetary fine for every election candidate sign not removed immediately after an election would be appropriate.

    Staples Players signs, for example, which are normally removed immediately after their advertised event) are a lot different than annoying election candidate signs which are still in place weeks and months after an election.

  5. Carolanne Curry

    There’s a blight officer who could remove all these illegal signs. Wonder why it’s not being done by him?
    However, anyway that gets rid of these violations is better for everyone….

  6. Thank you to Chip and Al for their service beyond the call of duty!

  7. K .F. Spearen

    I’m actually very Fond of new Regulations .. Some area’s of our town were getting very Cluttlered with them , including many Utility Poles .. I wonder if the new regulation will cleanup the signs on our utility poles all over town ??

  8. Bob Weingarten

    It seems that many of you have not noticed the FOR LEASE and FOR RENT signs on probably over 100 buildings in town which includes Main Street and other side streets. Perhaps signs could help “small contractors” get more business so that they can remain in Westport. Many signs promote Westport events so that we, the residents and non-residents, can focus on the. This includes book sales, art festivals, farmers market, special interest events, i.e. the dog Winslow Park event, etc.. Signs that help Westportrers who need to sell items, etc.. So I don’t understand all the negative comments about signs. Perhaps there is some regulation which can limit the numbers and placements, so that they can remain.

  9. I don’t mind the Tag Sale signs, or the ones for concerts, shows, charitable events, etc. But the political ones are ridiculous. Take the southeast corner of North Avenue and Cross Highway. Or the one on Cross Highway corner of Weston Road. There are so many jammed up together that you can’t read any of them. And, besides, you should be looking at the road and not reading signs. If they’re allowed by the First Amendment, why aren’t the others? PS — we have them in Fairfield, too, but I do spend most of my time in Westport.

  10. Maybe P&Z should set up a “for profit” business selling P & Z approved signs. Just submit your sign and a ton of money and you get to post them all over town (kidding)

  11. Matthew Mandell

    I don’t think draconian measures should be used to indirectly hurt all the non profit groups who use this cost effective way to get the word out about their events.

    I have no issue with for profit signs being removed. But the policy of 15 signs for non profits has never been reasonable or worth paying for them at the higher run cost. Nor would it even cover the off ramps to our highways.

    There is no doubt the Chamber puts up signs – for the Dog festival, Tuesdays @ the Train, the Slice of Saugatuck and this year the Blue Views & BBQ. These signs come down immediately after these events, events which are good for the community and often come with large donations to other non profits. The DMA, Homes with Hope, Earthplace, the Historic Society, Cinema Initiative, Clasp Homes and more all use this method to tell people what’s up. They all, along with their fundraising, will be effected by this.

    There is a middle ground here and discussion should occur. Better policing of for profit signs and better attention to removal is needed.

    In the meantime please leave our signs up for Tuesdays @ the Train.

    AND OF COURSE COME TO TUESDAYS @ The TRAIN next Tuesday July 17. http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/tuesdays

    • Dick Lowenstein

      And the same for the WesTport Library book sale, which begins this Saturday. BTW, we surveyed our customers at the March sale and the single most significant way they learned about our sale was….. LAWN SIGNS.

    • Robert Harrington

      All of Mandell’s signs help the public. Leave them!

    • Bart Shuldman

      Matt-why use signs anyway. Why the cost? Just use 06880, it’s free and hopefully Dan agrees and it helps keep the signs from cluttering the open space. Just a thought.

      I will gladly use my lawn to post your events.

      • Matthew Mandell

        Bart – pound for pound lawn signs are the most effective notice of events. There is no doubt about it. I ask people all the time “How did you hear about this event” and Lawn Signs beat out Facebook and the rest.

        As for 06880 – Dan does a great job promoting all the different things in town, and his support is deeply appreciated, but not everyone is out here and not everything is seen.

        • Bart Shuldman

          Matt-always let me know when a sign is available for an event. We be glad to help promote. Count us in.

  12. Kristin Schneeman

    I’ll stop by the library tomorrow to see if I can get a book sale sign to put in my front yard – I’m on Main Street in a visible location. 🙂


    I know this is just enforcement of existing rules, but it seems a little draconian to pull up signs for a nonprofit event that presumably didn’t apply for the required permission (who spends their time reviewing these applications, anyway?!). Give ’em a grace period, maybe? I’ve always appreciated the signs for local events, it’s often the only way I know they’re happening.

    Interesting question about the Aquarion signs that are clearly political speech (“Political signs are considered an expression of free speech and are allowed on public property”) but not tied to an event with a date like an election. Any lawyers online who care to render an opinion about whether they’re allowed indefinitely?

    • Dick Lowenstein

      Thank you, Kristin. The signs are in the trailer adjacent to the Library.

  13. Jalna Jaeger

    I have the Westport library book sale sign in front of my home. I too , in Norwalk remove signs.

  14. Our signs may have been trashed, but Family Fun Day at Wakeman Town Farm is still a GO this Saturday, July 14th from 11:00 to 3:00 and it’s going to be a blast! Games, contests, pickle making, birdhouse painting, crafts, face
    painting, chicken photo selfies, great food at our Hoe-Down Grill thanks to Robin Tauck, Saugatuck Sweets ice cream, a Fun Play Zone by Melissa & Doug, star gazing with the Westport Astronomical Society and rocking out to live music by the awesome School of Rock Fairfield.

    Hope to see you there!

  15. Mimi Greenlee

    As co-chairmen, volunteer of the Westport Library July Book Sale, it was definitely disturbing to see many of our signs removed without any notice.
    Just for your information we always ask town approval for our sign placement. Yes, we have reached beyond the 15 that the town approves, as does every other organization. Possibly that could be addressed, however many signs are placed on people’s property with permission. Many residents willingly take the signs to place in front of their homes.

    As a valued community event ,the Library definitely does count on advertising our sale through signs. This was confirmed by a recent survey taken in March. We spend $300 to order the signs, a cost that cuts into our revenue. Yet, we have always reaped the benefits by the number of customers who state that it is the signs that alerts them to the sale. And we all know the benefit to the library by the attendance and sales. It is a town entity that depends upon this revenue to support the needed budget beyond the 80% our town taxes provide.

    I hope the P& Z will reconsider or at least notify town not-for-profits of upcoming decisions.

  16. Tina Torraco

    Save Lincoln Street !

  17. This seems constitutionally questionable at best. Lawyers can no doubt argue the point, and so can I, but the last time I read the Constitution it did not say that certain kinds of speech are more protected than others. It says that speech is protected. Period. For certain officials, elected or otherwise, to take it upon themselves to remove signs seems somewhere between vigilantism and censorship. So do arbitrary decisions that some signs are better than others.

    In my experience, the vast majority of sign sponsors, whether not-for-profits hosting an event, students putting on a show, or people running for office, are responsible and remove their signs within a day or two of their event or election.

    I’ve lived in and traveled to places where the government limits speech. It makes me appreciate the signs here all the more. This is not pollution. It is freedom. It is liberty. It is a good thing.

  18. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
    Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
    Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

  19. Michael Calise

    A most unfortunate comment!

  20. Jack Whittle

    Please Robert, enlighten us about how Chip Stephens has personally “won” in this Town due to his “insider” status (your words, not mine), aside from reaping the benefits of growing up in a Town he clearly loves, and receiving a fine Staples education. That’s a serious statement, and one you should consider retracting if you misspoke, as I believe you have. Even if you strongly disagree with someone’s stance on local issues . . . .

    • Robert Harrington

      I will retract a comment if it causes offense. Not suggesting he doesn’t love this town at all. He’s put hours and hours into this town and have been a loyal public official. But we all get to say when we disagree on a specific policy.

      The simple fact is the timing of these signs being removed stinks. Let’s just be honest about that.

      On his Aquarion vote – he gets to decide that 73% of test being deficient fire hydrants is good enough for this town. Not good for those that live in Saugatuck shores areas. Sure it’s an improvement over the disgrace that exists today – but ISO sets these standards and guidelines for a reason.

      After this project 73% of tested hydrants will be deficient – and we haven’t been supplied the data for the vast majority of the 2000+ hydrants in town.

      A P&Z member corrected a sitting RTM member at a recent P&Z meeting who talked about this hydrant data and wants to “set the record straight” and that P&Z member did so with incorrect information. The RTM member was right all along. That is nowhere in the public record. As insiders you get to do that. As outsiders we have little to no recourse.

      Insiders also get to decide which signs stay and which ones go. Insiders get to determine which signs are good and which ones are bad. Insiders get to decide who has the right to political free speech and protest.

  21. On the subject of signs. What is going on at Compo beach? The Parks & Rec commission is destroying our beautiful beach with over 35 NEW signs. The sign count now stands at over 309. Ask yourself at your next trip to the beach, why is this place no longer as beautiful as you remember. You will find the answer in the bombardment to visual signage everywhere. The views of our lovely canons? Spoiled by the large blue rules sign, (that no one will ever read), stating the same rules that are on every life guard chair. There are 4 of these very large bright blue eyesores, each put where an artist might like to paint the setting or view.
    I dare you to count all the new parking signs. Shame on the people who have spoiled our beautiful beach so! I can’t be the only person in town who feels this way?
    Additionally, the worst town-wide abuse of signs can be found on North Compo Road, at the ball fields. Who gave approval for these 64 very large business advertising signs? The number of them grows weekly. Who said billboards aren’t allowed in Westport?
    Eric E. Bosch

    • How about the Compo signs warning about leaving dogs in a hot car, when dogs aren’t allowed at the beach in hot months? Or how about the 30 “no parking signs” on the Parker Harding Plaza road degrading the view of the river, which I think should be obvious as they are talking about an obvious travel lane?

      Hey Dan, how about you ask the community to send in their worst sign pictures (a la the recent poles & wires pictures), to generate some awareness and discussion on the issue beyond this seemingly narrow and weirdly inconsistent P&Z “volunteer enforcement protocol”. It seems that everyone sees signs as an issue that needs to be reviewed. Chris Woods

  22. WestportNow has an article outlining the rules for signs — apparently 15 signs are permitted for non-profit events, with the permission of the First Selectman’s office and must be removed within two days of the event. So, why did they remove the Library Sale signs? http://www.westportnow.com/index.php?/v3/comments/police_announce_sign_enforcement_effective_immediately/#more

  23. I had the same rules in my earlier story: https://06880danwoog.com/2018/07/09/pz-signs-off/

    The Library Sale signs were removed because there were far more than 15. There are still more than 15 on public property — and more on private property.

  24. Sally Palmer

    If people actually removed their signs after an event it wouldn’t be such a problem. Unfortunately, most don’t.

  25. Michael Calise

    You are seriously off base!

  26. Is it my perception or has sign pollution increased since this article?

    When is Mr. Kraut going to think “enough is enough”? The swarming of “Tuesdays at the Train” signs seem to have been trying to get through before a crack down? Traffic islands now look like honky-tonk shill stations (much to the chagrin of the businesses that pay for their beautification).

    These signs are pollution that leverage the “free rider principle”, where the posters know that even one more sale to them outweighs degrading the experience of 1,000 others. – Chris Woods

    • Bart Shuldman

      Enoughbis enoygh when the state worker party in CT is removed from leadership positions and people like Steinberg lose their positions.

      CT is in a Death Spiral if he have not heard. Get ready for higher and higher statenincone taxes. You know, the type that steinberg already voted to increase twice before. You see, those tax increases did nothing to solve CT’s fiscal crisis other than to motivate more companies to leave Ct.

      Enough is enough