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.
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.