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Select Board sends sign proposal to planning commission

09/27/2007

By Lisa Loomis

The Waitsfield Select Board sent a one-page summation of one member's concerns about the town's sign ordinance to the town planning commission for consideration.

The planning commission has recently begun working with the local chamber of commerce on whether the town's sign ordinance needs to be revised. Of particular concern are the regular and frequent violations of the ban on 'sandwich board' signs.

Violations of the sandwich board provision were what prompted select board member Sal Spinosa to raise the issue with fellow select board members this summer. At this week's regular meeting on September 24 he presented a written summation of his concerns.

"I would like to offer the following thoughts to the Planning Commission as they begin their work on a possible new sign standard," he wrote, detailing several concerns:

• The current sign provision should be extracted from the bylaws and recreated as a stand alone municipal ordinance.

• The new ordinance should be clear and comprehensive, particularly with regard to allowable design, location and purposes.

• Permits for the limited use of non-conforming signs or their uses could be examined.

• The new ordinance should provide clear and incremental enforcement responses, e.g., first offense/phone call; second offense/written letter; third offense/$100 fine; fourth offense/$250 fine; every offense thereafter/$500 fine.

• Monetary fines should be issued by the use of a ticket.

• At a minimum, both the town constable and the ZA could be authorized to issue the tickets.

• The tickets, if appealed, would go to the Judicial Bureau where their adjudication would be inexpensive for the town and the appellant.

Select board member Charlie Hosford told the board that he would also like to submit ideas for consideration to the planning commission. Board member Roy Hadden asked that the board give some thought to off premises signs.

"When is a special event no longer a special event? We allow off premises signs for special events, but what about when a business has a special event sign up every week?" Hadden asked.

"Well how will you know that this is the week to buy a chainsaw if that sign is not up" asked board member Paul Hartshorn.

"I'm just not sure where the line is with these 'special event' signs. Is it someone in Center Fayston advertising their business with a sign on Route 100? What about someone in Roxbury with a sign in Waitsfield?" he asked.

At the same meeting, the board adopted a new town policy on smoking and tobacco use by town employees and on town properties. The board approved a policy which prohibits smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco products in the workplace, except in designated areas. It also prohibits smoking and smokeless tobacco use in town vehicles, the town offices, the town garage, the fire station, and the General Wait House.

While reviewing minutes, the board got into a contentious discussion of whether allowing special events to have things for sale constituted allowing retail sales in the agricultural/residential district. Waitsfield's zoning prohibits retail sales (except for agricultural uses) in the agricultural/residential district. But the town does allow special one-time festival or public gathering permits for events such as the Mad River Valley Craft Fair or the Round Barn Photography Show (and yard sales) where 'retail' sales do take place.

At this week's meeting board members Hadden and Spinosa argued that the town needed to be consistent in applying its zoning and board member Hartshorn argued that prohibiting retail sales at events such as art shows and craft fairs would drive those events out of town.

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