Another Sign Of The Times

Westporters have a complex relationship with advertising signs.

We don’t want them clogging traffic islands — particularly when they’re illegal.

But for non-profits, they’re great vehicles for passing the word to passersby.

Alert “06880” reader/avid volunteer Amy Ancel writes:

People have been removing non-profits’ event yard signs from areas all over town — even those permitted and approved by the first selectman’s office.

This week’s thefts include signs for the Westport Library Book Sale and Wakeman Town Farm’s Family Fun Day.

I checked with Chip Stephens of the Planning and Zoning Commission. He and fellow commissioner Al Gratrix stopped removing illegal signs a year ago.

So it appears that members of the general public are removing our signs from town roads. They can’t do that!

Of course, commercial signs — like for Mosquito Joe, Hauling Unlimited and kids’ camps — are not legal anywhere.

But non-profit event signs are legal. They are approved by the first selectman’s office, for specific locations. They should not be touched by the public. This includes traffic islands maintained by local businesses.

These signs are one of two main ways non-profits have of advertising special events. (The other is social media.)

And these signs cost a lot of money. We try to reuse them, to create less waste!

We spend a lot of time and energy placing them. We’re only allowed 15 signs per event. It’s so aggravating to see them go missing almost as soon as we put them up!

14 responses to “Another Sign Of The Times

  1. Barbara Wanamaker

    Perhaps if the sign indicated that the event is for a non-profit and is therefore legal it would solve the problem?

  2. Matt Murray

    Our Police Department was pretty clear about this in 2018. I’m not sure why Ms. Ancel is upset as I would suspect the signs violate both Westport regulations and State regulations: Unfortunately I cannot highlight nor switch to a bold font for key elements about signage but the last paragraph and bullet points pretty much clarify any questions.

    Westport Police Department
    September 22 at 9:08 AM ·
    Westport Police Issue Press Release on Town Signage
    With election season upon us, the Westport Police Department would like to remind its citizens of the regulations pertaining to temporary signs in Town. Unfortunately we have experienced vandalism and theft regarding temporary signs in the past. This type of behavior will not be tolerated. These crimes may lead to criminal charges such as Trespassing, Criminal Mischief and / or Larceny. The following policy has been established by Westport Town Officials in order to provide coordination for the placement of temporary signs by Westport non-profit organizations wishing to advertise one-time-only charitable events. Signs placed on public property advertising a private business or company will be removed.
    General Guidelines for ALL Temporary Signs
    • Town property includes traffic islands and road rights of way.
    • The Town may not approve, nor is it responsible for, any signs erected on State of Connecticut property. It is not advisable to place signs on State of Connecticut property (including rights of way and islands along Routes 1, 136, 57, 33, and the Sherwood Island Connector, nor on the exit or entrance ramps of I-95 or the Merritt Parkway) as the State may remove them.
    • No sign may be placed on any school property without the prior permission of the Superintendent’s Office.
    • No sign may be placed within the interior of Compo Beach or Longshore Club Park.
    • No sign may be placed on Town Hall property.
    • No sign may be placed on trees or utility poles.
    • No sign may interfere with traffic visibility.
    • Signs on private property require property owner approval. Signs on private property shall not extend beyond the property line or into the Town right-of-way and is suggested they be removed within 2 days after the publicized event or election.
    Temporary Signs for Political Purposes
    Political signs are considered an expression of free speech and are allowed on public property. The General Guidelines noted above apply to temporary signs for political purposes.
    Temporary Signs for Advertising Charitable Events
    The placement and locations of temporary signs on Town property for the purpose of advertising a charitable event requires review and approval by the Westport Police Chief, Director of Planning and Zoning, and Director of Parks & Recreation, or their designated representatives. Qualifying organizations (i.e. local non-profits) may send the attached request, including proposed locations, for the placement of temporary signs to: Selectman’s Office, Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880 or
    The following conditions will apply to charitable events:
    • A maximum of 15 signs are allowed for each such event. This includes directional signs.
    • The signs may be erected not more than 2 weeks before the event and must be removed within 2 days after the publicized event.
    • The size of the sign cannot exceed 2 feet by 3 feet.
    • Non-compliance may result in the removal of signs.

  3. Maybe someone who is a regular should Check with the dump to be sure someone didn’t drop the off there.

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Matt Murray

    Dan suggested I post this, so it’s HIS fault. 🙂

    So are the charitable signs legal if they are on state roads, and associated easements? Are charitable signs legal if placed more than two weeks prior to an event? Are charitable signs legal if there are more than 15 placed on public property in total around town?

    I wonder if that “social media” thing *might* catch on and instead of spending so much money signage, along with the environmental impact of the signs (we’re still banning plastic bags aren’t we?).

    What about signs still posted after the charitable event has happened? Like the so called Dog Festival where the yard signs were up for more than a week after the event. (side note, where was the money from the entry fees spent?)

    As I have posted before: how about the political signs? Should we base our vote on the amount of signs from each candidate on each corner?

    Speaking of which the “Shakespeare in Rowayton” group has opted to put three or four signs at each intersection (North Compo and Greens Farms, (it’s State poperty, too.), the triangle at Greens Farms and Beachside has three more).
    ### end

  5. Maybe instead of finger-wagging at anonymous sign removers, the non-profit community should take this as a “sign” that the public finds all this signage to be unwelcome. Insofar as the illegal for-profit signs, they seem to stick around just as long as the non-profit ones. Has anyone ever been fined for posting them?

  6. The Wakeman Town Farm signs are in total compliance with Town regulations for every one of our advertised events. We go to great lengths to make sure of that. Our applications and approvals with the First Selectman’s office are all on the record. No one has any business removing our signs. They are legal, approved and in compliance with Town regulations. End of story. That’s why I’m annoyed, Matt Murray.

    • Matt Murray

      Actually the ones placed on State property are illegal. If someone took them down, such as a Department Of Transportation employee (our tax dollars at work) is doing the offender a favor by removing them and others.

      • We don’t have any signs on state property. Again, all of our sign sites have been reviewed and approved by the town.

  7. There is no way to know which signs are within or without the regulation.

    And since there is no “cost” to non-compliance, no penalty and obviously never any enforcement, it becomes a “tragedy of the commons” where the benefits accrue to the greedy.

    Like texting and bad parking, the only thing articles like this do is normalize the bad behavior, resulting in more of it.

    If there was a fine and enforcement, behavior wold change. – Chris Woods

  8. And isn’t it amusing that it is illegal to remove illegal signs…. chris woods

  9. Stacy Prince

    “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.” — MLK

    As Chris Woods said, we need enforcement (justice).

  10. Dick Lowenstein, Book sale, co-chirp

    Tuesday night, my Westport Library book sale sign was taken from lawn. The thief left the metal stand, just stole the sign. Who and why, I have no idea. If it was a town employee, where did she/he stash it? As for regulations, the Planning and Zoning Commission has a sign committee that is supposed to make recommendations. Has it ever had a public meeting? When? Results? Recommendations?

  11. Dick Lowenstein

    Oops. Co-chair, but I am chirping loudly about this theft,

  12. Joan Tricarico

    I like the signs, feels small town and a good way to know what’s going on around town before it’s over and reading about it on Westportnow or 06880