Planning Board tackles signage code revisions

North Salem Center Credits: Photo: Sue Guzman
Sign cited by the planning board as a "good example" of signs in North Salem. Credits: Photo courtesy: Cynthia Curtis
Credits: Photo courtesy: Cynthia Curtis
Wall signs on The Railyard building. Credits: Photo courtesy: Cynthia Curtis

(North Salem, N.Y.) -- The North Salem Planning Board has begun to review current sign code regulations in the town, in the hopes of clarifying them and simplifying the process for local businesses.

“We want to find the right balance between what the businesses need and how to keep North Salem the way it is,” said Planning Board Chair Cynthia Curtis.

The planning board began discussing the issue in its work session on Jan. 18.

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Planning Board member Christopher Brockmeyer said there were a number of challenges unique to North Salem that need to be addressed. 

“One of the biggest problems in trying to put together something for the whole town is you really have two distinct business areas. You have the hamlets and you have businesses that are on busy roads. They are very different beasts,” he said.

The panel examined various the various types of signs used in town, including free-standing mounted signs, wall signs, awnings, window signs, sign rules for corner lot properties and temporary signage.

Current code states that signs must be no larger than eight square feet.

Wall signs on the buildings themselves must be a maximum of two feet in height and no longer than 15 feet long. 

The planning board cited the recent installation of signs for The Railyard on Route 22 as being a good example of the use of a road sign that is used along with smaller wall signs on the facade of the building.

It also mentioned a recent sign put up by Harvest Moon on Hardscrabble Road as one that both is compliant with the current code, and also allows the business to detail its daily specials or seasonal hours. The sign is a wooden A-frame style structure that reads Harvest Moon, Farm & Orchards and has a smaller chalkboard-style sign below the freestanding structure.

Planning board members agreed that while it is technically two signs, the fact that the business is located in predominantly open space made it permissible or at least tolerable.

The board also discussed signs that were not compliant with town code including Salem Center. Board Chair Cynthia Curtis said the sign measured 18 square feet and contained the names of multiple businesses, something she said amounts to visual clutter.

“You don’t want to become like the Somers town center where the sign has the names of 30 businesses on it, all in 5 inch lettering,” said Curtis.

Planning Board member Gary Jacobi indicated he’d like to streamline the process of getting signs approved in the town.

“I’m tempted to keep it the same, “ he said, “And just make sure there’s a way to appeal it (with the zoning board of appeals) It’s not a particularly difficult process or onerous process (to do it that way). Because if the exception that you’re asking for is reasonable, you’re almost certain to get it.”  

Part of the discussion centered on the use of molding along the edge of signs and whether that should be allowed in addition to the eight-foot-square requirement.

The town’s planning consultant William Aresta said in most communities, the code simply specifies the height and width,and that molding, if there was any, was typically included in that figure.

The planning board at times debated how to handle new business signage. 

“You’ve got the potential of a new business going in in Purdy’s, and you have nice windows. Do you want to see all kinds of signage or what?” said Curtis.

At which point, board member Gary Jacobi responded, “I’d just like to see some new business go in!”

Talk also focused on awnings and whether they should be able to include the name of the business on the awning in addition to a regular wall sign, and window signs and discussions of what is “too much” when it comes to window signs and what is permissible. 

Renea Dayton, owner of Hayfields and North Salem Chamber of Commerce member told North Salem News “I just want to see some real change. I hope the decision will be made to go from the planning board to the zoning board, which will help make the process less daunting.”

She went on to add, “I also hope to see some flexibility for businesses that are just opening. They need and deserve the best opportunity to shine and signage is one aspect of that.”

Members of the planning board joked at the end of a recent lengthy work session on the sign issue,“We really didn’t accomplish much,” to which Curtis responded, “To be continued”

The planning board then agreed to take a closer look at the signs in neighboring communities, particularly those who have downtown areas with foot traffic such as Ridgefield and Katonah as well as Rhinebeck and possibly Port Jefferson, as it continues to formulate its sign code.

As of press time, the planning board was expected to continue to discuss the issue of signage code at its March 1 meeting and is planning to meet with the North Salem Chamber of Commerce later in the month.

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