Real estate signs may make a comeback

Peter Reich explains a proposal to use a room off the Building Department office for town archives storage to Glenn Waddington (left) and Jim Dougherty during Tuesday’s Town Board work session, the last before Christmas.

Changes to real estate sign restrictions will soon go to a publichearing as one alleged violator of the town prohibition oncommercial real estate signs awaits her day in court.
At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Councilman Ed Brown commentedthat Island real estate brokers are split over whether the lawshould be changed to allow commercial signs. Town AttorneyLaury  Dowd responded, “What’s in place now, I don’t thinkworks.
The town code has little to say about real estate signs. Section133-27 of town code explicitly allows: “Signs advertising the saleor rental of the premises by the owner not to exceed two squarefeet in total area. But the law is being interpreted as an outrightprohibition against any commercial signs and that’s a problem,according to Ms. Dowd as well as to some real estate brokers, whohave argued that the law violates constitutional rights to freespeech.
The town attorney has drafted proposed changes that in “some waysare more restrictive, and in some ways less restrictive, she said.The code would be changed to prohibit illuminating the signs andlimit where signs can be placed, when they must be removed andlimiting the number of signs per property to one. A sizerestriction would remain but the law makes no reference to thecontent of the sign. “We don’t mess with what a sign says, Ms. Dowdexplained, meaning that commercial logo, website, and officeinformation – not permitted under the current law’s interpretation- would be allowed, as would any other information useful inselling the property.
The town is currently prosecuting Realtor Penelope Moore forposting one commercial brochure stand on a Winthrop Road property.See sidebar, opposite page.
Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty closed Tuesday’s discussion bysaying, “Sounds like we’re ready to hear from the public. The boardis expected to set a public hearing at its next meeting, the annualyear-end meeting on Tuesday, December 29 at 1 p.m. The publichearing would likely be set for the board’s next regular meeting,on Friday, January 22, 2010.
At the end of the meeting, real estate broker Paul Mobius commentedthat his office, Georgiana B. Ketcham realty, “is very much opposedto real estate signs. If approved, the signs should be minimal, hesaid.
“We want to try to improve the law, Mr. Dougherty responded, butjust what that means is “open to debate.
The proposed law follows:
Real estate signs. Any property owner may display anywhere on hisproperty no more than one real estate sign, provided that such signshall:
(1) not be illuminated;
(2) not exceed two square feet in area and a height of three feetabove natural grade in residential districts, and eight square feetin area and a height of six feet above natural grade  innonresidential districts;
(3) shall be placed at least 10 feet away from any public street orright of way;
(4) shall not be placed on any property other than the property forsale.
(5) all such signs shall be removed within 15 days after theproperty to which they relate is no longer for sale, lease, rent orexchange.
During the December 15 work session, the board discussed severalother town topics which will be reported in detail next week butare summarized below:
Setting a public hearing on a wetlands permit to demolish theZagoreos house on the First Causeway for January 22. A proposedhouse on the property will referred to the Zoning Board of Appealsfor a special permit, Mr. Dougherty said.
Focusing Comprehensive Plan review priorities on protecting theIsland’s environment, particularly in light of detection of MTBE, afuel additive, in two private wells.
Setting a public hearing on a special permit to enlarge livingspace at the O’Shea property (Proposed Road) to over 11,000 squarefeet for January 22.
Establishing priorities for grants and legislative member itemmoney. Legion Hall efficiency improvements, an archive room in thebuilding behind Town Hall and West Neck Water District funding werementioned.
Complying with code setbacks on a proposed dock on the Staeblerproperty (Dickerson Road). A revised plan could not meet the southproperty line setback, according to Councilman Peter Reich, whowill continue to work with the contractor on an acceptable plan.