CLARK, NJ - Citing social media and Internet advertising as an alternate means of reaching customers in the digital age, the Township of Clark will soon vote on an ordinance that would prohibit merchants from placing temporary signs in store windows.
“If you’re going to be a first-class community, you have to look like a first-class community,” said Mayor Sal Bonaccorso at a recent Township Council meeting.
Bonaccorso said the ordinance is designed to keep the new Clark Commons area looking nice by preventing paper signs from hanging in windows. He acknowledged that the prohibition will “dovetail to other businesses that are here.”
“It’s not a punishment for anybody. We just want the new Clark Commons and the rest of the town to look as professional and as nice as possible,” he said.
The ordinance, which can be read here, defines two types of prohibited signs: window signs and window graphics. The definition of window graphic specifically states “temporary window graphics, such as those advertising a special sale or holiday decorative displays shall not be permitted.”
The ordinance will prohibit painted graphics, and signs of card, paper or other materials that are placed on, taped on or hung immediately behind the window.
“In today’s media age of the Internet, social media, things of that nature, it’s very easy for a store to get their word out,” said Bonoccorso. He said the days of a grocery store needing to hang a paper sign to advertise a sale on broccoli are long gone.
Bernie’s Westbrant Garage is a small, independent automotive parts store and repair shop on Westfield Avenue. Owner Bob Gittleman called the ordinance “a major detriment” and said it will penalize small businesses, the very businesses that do the most to support the local community.
“Local business is visual,” said Gittleman. “I can’t promote my business on the Internet. I’m not selling to somebody in Ohio, I’m selling to the guy next door. I need to catch the eye of the guy driving by.”
During the council meeting, Councilman Brian Toal warned citizens and merchants to take heed.
"This will have an effect on you. There are new rules and regulations,” Toal said. “The main crux of this is people complain about the appearance of the town; that it looks crappy. We’re trying to make sure to prevent that. Business leaders, business owners, please take note. It’s important you are aware this is going to be happening because it will have an effect on your business.”
Bonaccorso said a permit mechanism is in place for business owners who wish to advertise a special sale. Business Administrator John Laezza could not be reached for clarification of the permit procedure or enforcement protocols of the new ordinance.
The Planning Board will review the ordinance at its next meeting, to be held on Thursday, Feb. 5. The public may ask questions or bring concerns to the planning board during the public comments portion of that meeting.
Public hearing by the town council will be held during its Tuesday, Feb. 17 meeting.