EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 16, 2013

Salem considers new temporary sign rules

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM — Dissatisfaction with the town’s sign ordinance has led to more changes.

Efforts to regulate a growing number of illegally placed temporary signs throughout town has some people saying the town’s regulations are unfair. But others believe more needs to be done to regulate signs.

Selectmen gave their endorsement last week to a proposal aimed at helping to satisfy nonprofit organizations while restricting the number of signs allowed to advertise festivals and craft fairs.

The amendment now goes to the Planning Board for its review and then a public hearing Dec. 30. Voters would be asked to approve the proposal in March.

Nonprofit groups would be allowed to post temporary signs for special events no more than twice a year. Those signs would have to be removed within 24 hours of the end of the event, according to Assistant Town Manager Leon Goodwin.

The signs must be no taller than 3 feet, no bigger than 9 square feet, and they cannot be illuminated, Goodwin said. A permit would not be required.

The organizations must be registered as nonprofit groups with the New Hampshire attorney general’s office, he said. No more than two signs can be posted on a single property.

Representatives from nonprofit organizations have criticized the town’s efforts to restrict the placement of temporary signs, which they say are needed to promote events such as the Salem Farmers Market and annual SalemFest celebration.

Currently, temporary signs can only be posted on the property where the special events are held or with special permission from the private property owner.

Selectmen voted Sept. 30 to deny farmers market organizer Jane Lang’s request to place six temporary signs in rights of way around town to tell the public how to find the Lake Street market.

But it was market organizers’ failure to remove temporary signs as directed in 2012 that led selectmen to ban signs in all public rights of way. Some selectmen had said the town was becoming cluttered with signs posted at intersections, along roadways and on utility poles.

Goodwin said Friday the amended ordinance would be beneficial to nonprofit groups while still restricting illegally placed signs. Otherwise, they would not be able to advertise their festivals and craft fairs.

“Nonprofits are an important part of our community,” he said. “But we also don’t want them littering the landscape with temporary signs.”

The proposal has drawn criticism from Lang, who believes the town should allow the posting of signs for the weekly farmers market. She said the market is a valuable community service that brings fresh produce to residents.

Lang has consulted with Goodwin about the amendment. She said she hoped to provide input for the proposal, but it was crafted without her help. The farmers market is not included among the organizations that could advertise special events twice a year.

“I was told they would try to do whatever they could to make it work,” she said.

Town planning director Ross Moldoff, whose department drafted the amendment, said while most organizations would be pleased with the change, the farmers market would be an exception.

“You can’t do something just for the farmers market,” he said. “You would have to do it for everybody.”

SalemFest organizer Betty Gay, a critic of Salem’s sign regulations, said the town should allow signs in rights of way. Gay said she was not given an opportunity to provide her input for the amendment and is considering filing a citizens petition.

She said the town doesn’t do enough to enforce the current ordinance, allowing some illegally placed signs to remain while others are removed.