AREA NEWSThe Putnam Examiner

Southeast Supervisor Says Sign Law Unfair to Businesses

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A sampling of signs posted in a pharmacy’s window soon would be illegal and susceptible to fines if the Town Board does not rework a 2004 amendment to town code.
A sampling of signs posted in a pharmacy’s window soon would be illegal and susceptible to fines if the Town Board does not rework a 2004 amendment to town code.

The clock is ticking on businesses in the Town of Southeast to comply with an amendment to the town’s commercial sign code that was adopted by the Town Board in 2004 and gave businesses seven years to comply with new stringent regulations on the types and sizes of signs allowed in town.

That is why Town Supervisor Tony Hay is convening a special meeting with the Town Board and the Brewster Chamber of Commerce from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, March 29. Supervisor Hay said at that meeting he will present proof to his colleagues that adhering to the 2004 law would place an undue burden on business owners, as well as overwhelm town government resources.

Driving around town with his camera in hand, Supervisor Hay said that he took hundreds of photographs of the signage outside of local businesses and found that only one was in compliance with the new, strict requirements.

Supervisor Hay said he is in favor of immediately placing a moratorium on enforcing the sign code, as well as taking up a complete overhaul of the standards adopted back in 2004.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Tweak the law.’ This is not a tweaking. This is huge,” Supervisor Hay said of the changes that need to be made.

Brewster Chamber of Commerce President Geoffrey Reinwald, who said he has received many complaints regarding the amended sign code from Chamber members, agreed with Supervisor Hay.

“Scrap the law. Start over again,” Reinwald said. “There is no continuity in the sign law. It’s ridiculous.”

The 2004 amendment calls for different restrictions depending on which of several zones in town a business is located; one of the major problems associated with the 2004 amendment cited by Supervisor Hay and Reinwald.

If enforced, the current sign law would ban all lit signs in windows — meaning any business with a neon sign would be in violation. In addition, backlit signs, meaning the light emanates from within, would be banned in approximately 75 percent of the town. Supervisor Hay said another requirement that many businesses could only have a two foot by two foot sign in their storefront was simply to small, especially for commercial enterprises located on busy thoroughfares like Route 6 and Route 22.

Given that almost all of the businesses in town have not changed their signs, something which can come with a potential price tag of $15,000 or more, Supervisor Hay said that if the town universally enforced the 2004 standards, the town’s building inspector, and other municipal agencies, would be inundated by the process. Supervisor Hay also said the town could face litigation on multiple fronts from business owners challenging the enforcement of the standards adopted in 2004.

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