Members of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission are looking to help even the odds for businesses with new sign regulations, but businesses are worried that zone restrictions would make the proposed changes “unfair.”
The commission has taken on the task of amending regulations regarding A-frame signs, and while the Southington Chamber of Commerce is on board with the rules, restricting it to downtown businesses would defeat the purpose, Chamber President Art Secondo said.
“It’s not going to help the businesses that need it most to have it only in the central business district,” Secondo said. “Caffe Del Mondo is a perfect example; the downtown area is important, but to have signs only in these zones leaves 95 percent of stores who could use it as ‘illegal.’ It just doesn’t serve a purpose.”
The commission first took on discussions in early November after the Chamber came forward to request a moratorium on A-frame sign regulations.
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Secondo argued at that time there were competitive businesses that were “dueling” with each other and due to restricted staffing in the town’s zoning enforcement office, it was impossible to enforce existing regulations on everyone.
The commission agreed and the regulations were sent for review by the continuous improvement subcommittee, who came back last week with a set of regulations that would put restrictions on A-frame signs including allowing them no larger than four feet by two feet, limiting signs to one per business and forcing those who wish to use the sign to receive a permit.
The regulation changes would also eliminate restrictions on use of A-frame signs in the winter, although it also forces businesses to remove the signs when the business is not open and during any major storm events or snowstorms.
“I think the amendment to take in signs overnight and to include major storm events is fair,” said commission member Kevin Conroy. “I don’t think there is any reason to say they can’t have (signs) year-round, but we don’t want to burden snow removal efforts and safety by these signs.”
While members were all in agreement on the regulations, there was some difference in opinion on where they should be located.
Under the proposed text, which will be reviewed again before approval, the signs would be allowed only within downtown Southington. Several members said they believe that the signs would only benefit businesses that see “foot traffic” and there was no need for signs in high motorist areas such as Queen Street.
Steve Kalkowski, chair of the continuous improvement subcommittee, said the subcommittee had concerns that the signs would be more of a distraction to drivers than promotional for businesses.
“There’s still work to be done,” he said.
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