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October 2, 2013

Salem refuses to budge on sign ban

Farmers Market supporters' pleas don't sway decision

SALEM — People looking for the Salem Farmers Market aren’t going to get any guidance from signs in town rights of way.

Selectmen won’t budge on the town’s sign ban.

Despite pleas from 11 market supporters, the board voted, 4-1, on Monday to reject a request to place signs in public rights of way around town. Patrick Hargreaves was the only selectman to support the request.

Market organizer Jane Lang asked selectmen for permission to place signs at six locations around town to tell the public how to find the market, held Sundays at the Lake Street Garden Center.

But it was market organizers’ failure to remove temporary signs as directed in 2012 that led to selectmen adopting the ban earlier this year.

“I have had calls from people and they say, ‘Just put the signs up,’” Lang told selectmen. “But I want to do this right.”

Lang said not being allowed to post signs has hurt business at the farmers market.

“I just want you to know there was a definite decline in attendance,” she said. “It is important that we get these signs up on the day of the market.”

Selectmen have said they were tired of seeing signs from various groups posted on town property, especially busy intersections where they posed a distraction to drivers. Market organizers had previously been allowed to post signs as long as they were taken down on Sunday afternoons.

Lang’s request comes only a month after selectmen denied SalemFest organizers permission to post several dozen signs for the annual event in rights of way. Organizer Betty Gay said the group had been able to post its signs for years without any problems.

The new town ordinance only allows signs to be placed on private property and it costs $10 for each one.

Some selectmen, including Chairman Everett McBride Jr., said he would be willing to write an ordinance to help nonprofit organizations, but couldn’t support the market’s request.

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