Curbs on sandwich signs due vote 30-day permits would be allowed

September 14, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

After a heated debate over whether sandwich signs would attract business to Westminster merchants or become "visual pollution," the City Council voted unanimously last night to introduce an ordinance to regulate the signs.

Council members are expected to vote on the ordinance, which would allow the city's planning and public works director to approve the sign permits for 30-day periods, at their Sept. 27 meeting.

An accompanying resolution would regulate sign sizes, styles and hours of display.

"During the reconstruction of Main Street, businesses are not only bleeding, they are hemorrhaging," said council member Damian Halstad as he introduced the ordinance. "I feel we need to assist them."

MA Council member Stephen Chapin Sr., who originally opposed the

signs, agreed and said he felt that allowing the boards would send a message of council support to the struggling merchants.

"If someone is bleeding, we take them to the hospital," he said. "We need to pay attention to them and stop the bleeding. It is not a panacea, but it is one little thing that may be a small part in helping to increase sales."

Opposition to the ordinance was led by Councilwoman Rebecca Orenstein, who favored a moratorium on enforcing the sandwich-sign ban during Main Street's reconstruction.

"This is a Band-Aid that might hurt us all in the long run," she said. "We have to keep our eye on the big picture, which is the health of downtown.

"Let's all roll up our sleeves and really work by shopping on Main Street, telling our friends about Main Street and bringing our friends to dinner on Main Street."

Council members and merchants who attended the meeting disagreed about whether businesspeople favor the sandwich signs.

Westminster resident Patti Keener, who owns an antique shop behind the library, asked the council to reject the ordinance, calling the signs "visual pollution."

"I've paid for my advertising through mailers and advertisements," she said, adding that several downtown merchants agreed with her. "My business has improved. I didn't need a sandwich sign."

In contrast, Heinz Luesse praised the council's decision to consider the sandwich signs. Mr. Luesse, owner of Heinz Cake and Gift Haus, asked the council to let him continue using a small sandwich sign advertising coffee and doughnuts in front of his bakery.

"I have been in Westminster for 21 years and haven't polluted Main Street yet," he said. "If it gets to be a problem, I will be the first person to take my sign back."

A handmade sign attached to an Alt's Transport tow truck parked outside the council meeting also seemed to support the proposed ordinance. In spray-painted black letters, it declared: "Merchant Signs In!!!"

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