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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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Signs, signs, everywhere signs


By Lisa Loomis

Sandwich board signs, those small A-framed signs which proliferate along Route 100 in front of local businesses touting clearances, sales and specials, are indicative of businesses that need better recognition and visibility, according to chamber director Susan Roy.

Roy appeared before the Waitsfield Planning Commission this week at a regular meeting on September 18 to discuss the issue of sandwich board signs and the town's sign ordinance.

Sandwich board signs are illegal under the town's sign ordinance. Traditionally, they are put out and the town's zoning administrator sees them and enforces the town ordinance by calling the business owner or issuing a formal letter. The signs have tended to crop up when the town is in between zoning administrators or without a zoning administrator completely.


In discussions this week with the town planners over the issue of sandwich board signs and whether the ordinance should or should not be changed, Roy provided the commission with a roundup of how other towns either allow or prohibit, or allow but limit, sandwich board signs.

Planners asked Roy if she had surveyed her membership to see how many are interested in sandwich board signs on a limited basis and how many are in trouble over the current prohibition. Roy said the sheer number of signs that are up is indicative of retail shops not being recognized as such.


Planner Robin Morris suggested that Valley businesses in the two local shopping centers face a marketing problem in that a main road goes through town and their shops are off the main road. Planner Russ Bennett reminded the commission that the current sign regulations were written by professional sign makers and said that he felt the two shopping centers did a very poor job of marketing themselves via their existing signage.

"We live in a nice state with a prohibition on billboards statewide, and sandwich boards are really just small billboards. I think we need to ask ourselves about our intent. Is it to allow sandwich boards and move the point of enforcement from allowing none to allowing 10 days per year? Right now we have a rule and there's nothing wrong with it except that it's not being enforced," Bennett said.

"I think there's a sense that sandwich boards should be allowed on a temporary basis. The retailers with the biggest challenge are those who are off Route 100, but as a chamber, I think there are things that can be done to improve their visibility," Morris said.

After further discussion with Roy, planners asked her to create a task force to work on this issue and to have that task force include two members of the planning commission.

"Our question to the chamber is, if you'd like us to change the ordinance to make advertising easier for your members, tell us what needs to be done," planner Steve Shea explained.


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