EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

March 5, 2014

Letter: Preserving nonprofits' right to post fundraiser signs

To the editor:

Charitable New Hampshire organizations historically use temporary signs to advertise fundraisers. I support two Salem sign articles to preserve that right. Article 5 protects the right to post signs on personal and business property. Article 25 aims toward allowing street signs.

Some Salem selectmen claim their goal is to stop prohibited business signs littering Route 28. The town laid off the only employee tasked with removing the signs. Illegal signs haven’t been reduced by punishing charitable organizations with excellent reputations who requested selectmen’s approval and picked the signs up right away.

Article 5 amends Zoning Ordinance 7:2.4.2 with Paragraph 11, which verifies residents’ and businesses’ right to post signs for non-profit fundraisers on their property.

Past unwritten law allowed people to put up yard signs promoting fundraisers. Written law prohibited businesses from posting them.

Some courts have ruled that property owners cannot post signs for charitable fundraisers on their own property because they consider fundraisers “commercial.” That should be challenged in court; meanwhile, the faster fix is to approve Article 5.

Article 25 is a non-binding referendum on Municipal Code Chapter 275-17B. Voting “yes” says Salem voters want to restore the right to post temporary signs for charitable events along some town streets and on town properties that participate in those charitable events, like Salemfest.

For eight years, Salem selectmen followed the code and allowed street signs along rights-of-way for charities, but this year they refused to approve signs for any nonprofit after one organization failed to remove its signs on time. So all Salem charities lost a great way to draw a crowd. Selectmen cite state law granting them sole right to write municipal code, so voting “yes” on Article 25 is not binding. But we can tell the selectmen what we think is fair.

Betty Gay

Salem, N.H.

Salemfest organizer

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