LENOX -- After more than a year of discussion, debate and dissension, the Great Lenox Sandwich Board Controversy appears headed for a resolution.
Inconsistent enforcement and confusion in the community over the rules and regulations governing placement of the boards outside business establishments on public and private property led the Select Board to adopt a temporary solution last summer, allowing each merchant one board of a specific size through Dec. 31, 2012.
But a more permanent ap proach will be presented to business owners and the general public at an information session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 at Town Hall. The goal is to gauge their reaction to the one-page outline of the rules, expected to be posted soon on the town website.
Outlining the proposal at the recent Select Board meeting, Planning Board Chair woman Kate McNulty-Vaughan explained that the board decided to embark on a separate, free-standing town bylaw rather than continue working with the Historic District Commission on a modification of zoning rules.
"We’ll fine tune it so it’s something that’s pretty satisfactory on the regulatory end and the business end, and then go from there," she said.
The draft of the plan calls for the Select Board to issue a temporary permit for one A-frame sandwich board sign per business, per year, in the commercial and industrial zoning districts, valid for a full year from the date it’s issued.
The maximum size of the sign would be 27 inches wide by 48 inches high, and a minimum of 18 inches wide by 30 inches high. Merchants would be asked to take in their signs each evening after business hours.
"We’re trying to do a compromise here," said McNulty-Vaughan.
"You’re not going to get everything you want, you can’t launch your entire advertising on a sandwich board, but we think it’s a reasonable compromise and let it go at that. We’re allowing a great deal of discretion for businesses on materials."
"We decided to take out the words ‘aesthetically pleasing,’ which seems subjective and not everyone in the room could agree on what that would be," she added.
The Planning Board chairman voiced confidence that the business community "will make good choices, and we’ll allow them the discretion to do that." The proposed bylaw would apply both to a merchant’s private property as well as adjoining public property.
The police department could prohibit the signs on a stormy day if the placement of the signs could cause a safety hazard.
The town’s building inspector would have the enforcement authority to inform business owners if signs don’t conform to the rules, and a fine could be imposed if there’s no resolution.
"The key thing we’re looking for from you is to get it right," McNulty-Vaughan told the Selectmen, "and we’re looking for that from the business community as well."
The proposed rules would apply to all business and industrial sectors of the town, including the Route 7 and 20 (Pittsfield Road) commercial strip, where many illegal signs are already being displayed. But that provision is subject to further discussion and potential revision.
"We need to sort this out, because the needs in town are obviously different from the needs on 7 and 20," observed Planning Board member Mark Smith.
In its final form, the sandwich-board sign bylaw would require approval by Town Meeting voters, either at a special session or at the annual gathering next May.
"Let’s get it done and get something ready for next year," McNulty-Vaughan urged. Select Board members voiced favorable reaction to the Planning Board’s proposal.
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Sandwich board sign proposal ...
Here are highlights of the proposed Lenox bylaw:
n The sign shall be displayed only in front of the place of business. It shall not protrude on the sidewalk in such a way as to obstruct pedestrian movement or reduce the open sidewalk width to less than four feet. Signs shall not be located in the street.
n The sign shall not exceed 27 inches in width and 48 inches in height, nor shall it be less than 18 inches wide and 30 inches high. The height of the sign shall be measured from the ground to the top of the sign.
n The sign shall be constructed entirely of framed wood, a wood or rigid plastic composite or similar material, and may include a chalkboard, whiteboard, foamboard, or similar insert within the frame.
n The sign shall be free of sharp corners, or protrusions and devices which could cause injury.
n The sign may be displayed only during business hours, and must be stored indoors thereafter.
n No additional attachments such as flags, banners or balloons.
n No sign shall be displayed during adverse weather conditions such as snow, ice or heavy wind.
n If a sign is located on public property, liability insurance coverage shall be carried and must cover personal injuries or property damage which may occur in such areas.
n In response to specific safety concerns, the Police Department may prohibit sandwich signs in designated areas during holiday parades or other specified times or days when sidewalk congestion is expected to be excessive.
n The Building Commissioner has the right to remove any sign deemed unsafe either structurally or in its location, or for failure to comply with the above conditions or prohibitions, following written notification to the sign owner detailing the problems.
n In addition, the provisions of this bylaw may also be enforced by the Building Commissioner, by non-criminal complaint. Each day in which a violation exists shall be deemed to be a separate offense. The penalty for violation of any provision of this bylaw shall be $25 for the first offense; $50 for the second offense; $100 for the third offense and $300 for the fourth and each subsequent offense.
Source: Lenox Planning Board