WALLINGFORD — The Planning and Zoning Commission adopted new restrictions this week that ban most new digital display signs.
PZC members met earlier this week to vote on a zoning regulation change severely restricting the use of digital signs in town. The new regulation makes a limited allowance for vehicle fueling stations for safety reasons. The change passed unanimously and goes into effect Friday.
The new regulation includes modified zoning regulations that would allow fueling stations, which include gas stations and electric charging stations, a limited amount of digital signage.
Town Planner Kacie Hand said fueling stations only display one price per day and safety concerns were discussed in previous meetings regarding attendants manually changing prices at fueling stations. She said the town is also not allowed to limit signage when it comes to pricing.
A moratorium on digital signs is slated to end this month, so action was needed, Hand said. The town has held several public hearings and workshops regarding the change and modifications to a draft regulation, she added.
“After reviewing that drafted regulation I think the general consensus was that the commissioners really felt that digital signs were generally not appropriate in town,” Hand said. “I think concerns about those stem from aesthetics to safety distractions to enforcement issues.”
A handful of digital signs existing in town are allowed to remain up because they were legally constructed at the time and they have the proper permit, Hand told the Record Journal Wednesday. Hand said the Toyota Oakdale Theater’s digital sign along South Turnpike Road, for example, will be allowed to stay because the sign permit was approved in 2014. As long as the signs are not modified by adding flashing text or moving animation and legally installed at the time, they can stay.
“Any existing permitted digital sign is grandfathered, if subject to the rules it was approved under,” Hand said.
The issue of potentially regulating digital LED signs was first discussed in 2015 and brought to the attention of the commission. A moratorium was placed on electronic signs in February 2017, after residents expressed concerns that the flash, brightness and scroll of electronic signs are distracting to drivers. The moratorium has been in place since then.
“Signs are one of the largest sections of our zoning book,” said Commissioner James Fitzsimmons. “So to put this in after two years of input, workshops, it makes sense. It’s very clear that we spent some time thinking about this.”