Sign alternative

To the Editor:

The Town Board is about to create new law to make real-estate and contractor signs less noticeable. Sort of defeating the whole purpose of a sign in the first place and what might be construed as a First Amendment issue. But the argument that these signs create what could be called “visual noise” is also understandable. It is a quality of life issue. The Town Board is also interested in increasing seasonal tourism here. There might be a simple solution for all of these problems.

Congressman Tim Bishop has cosponsored H.R.1147: Local Community Radio Act of 2009, soon to be signed into law. This would allow a low-power radio station to be owned and operated by the town for the good of the community. What if there were only signs at each ferry terminal that read, “Tune to 107.5 FM for real-estate and tourist information”? You would then hear a message directing you to a visitor’s center and the various businesses, including Realtors, on the island. 

At the visitor’s center you could obtain a copy of the Reporter, various brochures and maps to homes for sale. Great for potential buyers not ready to meet with a realtor just yet. Businesses might find that they would get more and better exposure this way. The trade-off for this taxpayer investment would be that any businesses that voluntarily participate in this concept would agree not to post signs in residential areas.

The town and a chamber of commerce can do pretty much anything with such a radio station, short of “shock radio” and selling commercial advertising time. The town could also broadcast live events from the high school, meetings, etc. More importantly, when trees, power, cable and phones are down because of a storm, the police, fire and highway departments could immediately broadcast emergency information to all citizens. Everyone has a radio in the car or a portable radio at home. While not very costly, there very well might be DHS or FEMA federal money to pay for most of this and create a few jobs to boot.

Technically, this Island, with a defined coverage area and no tall buildings, is a perfect place for a low-power FM radio station. It is not meant to replace WLNG, but rather to focus solely on Shelter Island interest. Best of all, there would be less or no need for signs, no need to create more town codes; and no need to mess around with the First Amendment. Just an idea.