By Claire Walla
Should they stay or should they go?
For North Haven Village Trustees, signage has been a big topic of interest. Not only has it recently prompted trustees to entertain the notion of amending village code to more clearly delineate what does and does not constitute a sign, but the topic has also caused trustees to wonder whether the village could eliminate signage altogether.
At the next trustees’ meeting on Tuesday, March 6, village board members will meet with the village’s attorney, Anthony Tohill, to discuss the various options before them. The meeting is open to the public and will begin at 5 p.m.
The idea of barring signs was first brought up by Trustee Jeff Sander during the village’s last meeting in February.
“I don’t think signs add anything to the environment and the beauty of the community,” he said in an interview this week.
Village Clerk Georgia Welch said the village hears numerous complaints from people in the community regarding what they apparently perceive to be excessive signage. In 26 years on the board, she added that she’s heard this complaint year after year.
“We keep trying to wrestle with [zoning] regulations and [sign] size, that takes a lot of time and thought,” Sander continued. “And enforcing whatever you pass is very difficult. I just think the community would be better served if we eliminated them.”
Sander clarified that any proposed ban would not include necessary signs, like street names and home addresses. It would be aimed more at curbing the excess of real estate and construction advertisements.
According to Welch, the village has long struggled with these structures.
“They just get too heavy,” she said. “Especially when you have a large project on a county road — that’s highly visible. [Residents] think it looks ugly.”
She then added, “When you already have a construction project going on, you don’t need signs peppered up and down the dirt hills.”
The notion of amending the village’s sign code has been discussed in this sense for years, but it was spurred in earnest at the beginning of this year when a North Haven resident complained of a homemade wooden sign that had been displayed at the corner of Route 114 and Maunakea.
“That precipitated the entire discussion,” Welch explained.
The structure, which has since been taken town, was a block of wood into which the address number, “144 Ferry Road,” was carved with big block letters. Though some trustees remarked at the size of the sign, at issue was its location.
“There was a question of whether or not it was on village property,” Welch added.
As for how this type of sign will be viewed by the village, Sander said at this point that will largely be contingent on what Tohill will bring to the table. At the trustees’ meeting last month, Tohill said he could not recall any other municipalities that had issued an all-out ban on signs, but he’s bringing his findings to the meeting on Tuesday.
“At this point, I think it’s going to be a legal question,” Sander continued. Based on some correspondences he said he had with some lawyers, Sander said there may be some issues of “freedom of speech” at hand.
“[Tohill] will have information for us about whether we can really do this, or not,” he added.