Essex County News

Verona Businesses Appeal to Town Council About Store Signage Code

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VERONA, NJ - Business signage has been a hot topic for business owners and residents in Verona for some time now and was a topic that was brought up by a local merchant at a recent township council meeting.

Local business owner Ken Borino -- who owns several storefronts on Bloomfield Avenue -- expressed his concerns with the signage ordinance at the Jan. 17 council meeting after receiving a letter prohibiting LED lights in his windows, Borino said while standing at the podium.

“This code that you have may have been good when it was enacted,” Borino said.  “Today things have changed. We need the lights in our windows to show our wares.”

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Borino received a notice of violation earlier this week regarding string lights he has in his window. That notice follows an initial letter he received in October that he said stated he could have lights if they were placed inside the window. Township Manager Matthew Cavallo said, though, that this letter did not permit lights inside.

“I’d just like to clarify. The letter doesn’t say you can keep [lights] on the inside,” Cavallo said. “The letter said they’re prohibited on the exterior.”

These LED lights are what Borino said helps to attract customers to his stores, which sell appliances and furniture. Although LED lights are known to be bright, they have changed over time and do not give off the same look that they used to, he noted.

“The lights today are not ugly. They’re pretty,” Borino added. “Why should me and other merchants have to suffer?”

The township is currently going through the process of recodification and reviewing their ordinances to make sure they are up-to- date, Mayor Kevin J. Ryan said. The signage ordinance is one that the council plans on thoroughly reviewing, with Ryan even suggesting they push it to the top of the list.

For now though, the council members said they need to enforce the code that is currently in place, a code that was originally adopted in 2011.

“If you have a code on the book you have to enforce it, you have to change it or you have to get rid of it,” Councilman Jay Sniatkowski said, adding that although the code has some flaws, it must be enforced so as to not give business owners the right to do whatever they want.

At recent township council meetings, residents have expressed concerns with LED lighting, saying that it may be too flashy for the downtown area. With different opinions from residents and business owners, the council members agreed that they need to find a balance between what residents and business owners want.

“We need the pendulum to sort of drop in the middle there and see what works for everybody,” Sniatkowski said. “That is a priority for the council.”

Verona resident and business owner Jack McEvoy also took to the podium during the public session, suggesting that instead of regulating the type of lighting, the council regulate the amount of lumens in the lighting instead.

The town council plans to review the current ordinance and discuss the best plan for everyone in town.

“We need to review all these ordinances and say, ‘What was the original intent, what is the look we want for downtown and what is intrusive to the neighborhood?’” Councilman Alex Roman said. “And how do we make our ordinances look like what we intend to have happen?”

Sniatkowski agreed, saying that the council’s main priority is doing what is best for the township.

“I don’t think our intent is to go to battle with the businesses,” he said. “I just think we need to come up with a solution that is viable and is business-friendly, while also maintaining the integrity of our downtown.”

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