October 25, 2013 11:51AM
By Jeff Gebeau
SOUTHINGTON — The zoning department has issued at least twenty notices of violation to local businesses that have illegal signs, according to Acting Town Planner Dave Lavallee, who addressed the issue via e-mail.
Zoning Enforcement Officer Matthew A. Reimondo said the most common types of sign violations are oversize signs, improperly placed roadside wire signs, and “flag signs.”
Reimondo said zoning regulations permit businesses to have of 1.5 square feet of signage per square foot of frontage. Anything in excess of that amount is illegal, he said.
Reimondo said businesses with overlarge signs may have to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals to apply for a variance.
Lavallee said he is not aware of any businesses among those that recently received violations that will be required to file for a variance. Most signs that exceed the size limit are taken down or replaced with signs that conform to town requirements, he said.
Reimondo said municipal wire sign regulations govern brick-and-mortar businesses the same as they do other companies, as well as residents. With few exceptions, the signs are prohibited unless they are on private property.
Flag-signs, which are typically affixed to a pole, are always illegal, Reimondo said. The signs distract motorists, he said.
Lavallee said the town is also having problems with businesses illegally hanging banners, along with signs that are illegally attached to buildings, such as those that advertise beer and cigarettes.
Reimondo said the department has been surveying the town to determine which businesses need to be brought into compliance with local sign ordinances, a task that was underway before he started his position three weeks ago. “It’s been an ongoing issue, apparently,” he said.
Lavallee confirmed that the sign crackdown was occurring during the six months he served as Acting Zoning Enforcement Officer, prior to Reimondo’s arrival.
Reimondo said the department is currently going through the process of contacting owners of businesses that are guilty of sign violations and working with them to make them compliant with regulations.
Businesses that have received notices for illegal signs have so far been “responsive,” he said.
Reimondo said the purpose of the stepped-up enforcement of sign regulations is to maintain competitive fairness among town businesses.
“We’re trying to get everybody on the same playing field,” he said.