Business Owners Not Happy with Changes to Southeast Sign Law

Several business owners who spoke at the special Southeast Town Board meeting last Thursday regarding proposed changes to the sign code were not happy with the proposal, saying the new sign law is too restrictive.

Hay said he understood their frustration, adding that although there may be a perception that town government was not business-friendly, that it wasn’t the case.

With his 36 years as a business owner and the many more of those who sat with him on the committee to draft the changes to the sign code, Hay said he was the biggest advocate for businesses and kept their interests in mind.

“When government goes knocking on people’s doors and tells people they are in non-compliance or something, they get very upset. I don’t blame them,” Hay said, adding that whatever determination the board came to, not everyone would be pleased. “No matter what we do, it’ll never be right.”

Hay provided a review of some of the proposed changes. Decals notifying customers of what credit cards are accepted at a business will no longer be considered a sign. Window signs cannot cover more than 50 percent of a window. Large scale signs for chain retailers will need to beautified with plants or wood chips around the base.

“The nicer you make your front of your yard, the more people you’re going to attract,” Hay said.

And the size of a building will dictate how much signage a business can have out front announcing their presence to passers-by.

Hay said a copy of the proposed law would be sent to every commercial enterprise in town and business owners would have four years to comply with it. Hay also said he would be in favor of grandfathering existing signs from compliance with the new changes.

Sonny Vataj, who is the owner of Brewster Plaza, spoke at the meeting on behalf of the businesses he rents space to. He said that limiting the amount of signage to 60 square feet, divided up among his ten tenants,  would hurt the businesses in his plaza that he described as “mom and pop” shops.

“At the end of the day, I don’t want to see the town vacant because people don’t have the signage money or vice-versa.” Vataj said.

Jack Bolnick of Bolnick and Snow LLP argued against all the restrictions the town plans to put on signage for towns. While not as concerned for his own business because it doesn’t rely as much on advertising, he said he’s concerned for other businesses in town.

“I’m just amazed now you’re not only telling me the size of my sign, you’re telling me how the plantings have to look. You want everything to look nice, like we’re in Greenwich. This isn’t Greenwich, Connecticut.” Bolnick said. “…The next step, you’re going to come to my house and tell me [about] my bushes, my trees. When is this going to stop?”

Hay said that he would continue to discuss the contents of the new sign law with his colleagues on the board.

A public hearing on the proposed law is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 25 and Hay said he would like to see a new sign law adopted by the new year.

A copy of the proposed sign law, and the entirety of changes to it, can be viewed online at www.townofsoutheast-ny.com or by visiting the Southeast Town Clerk office.

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