Sign rules fall short

To the Editor:

Considering the comments made at the last Town Board meeting regarding the proposed sign legislation [February 19], the new draft is extremely disappointing. It does not reflect the sentiments expressed at that meeting, which came from the public, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, the president of the Shelter Island Association, a representative of the building trades, as well as a petition signed by the majority of the real estate agencies on the Island and a letter from the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Association. It also is contrary to the intent of the existing legislation, which, although flawed, sought to ban signs entirely. 

Rarely does an issue come before the board that engenders such overwhelming, in fact near unanimous support for a course of action such as we have witnessed in opposition to commercial signs in residential areas. These signs are undesirable aesthetically, can have a potentially negative impact on property values and are of questionable help to the real estate industry. Therefore, it is surprising that the new draft would present, and the board seriously consider, such a watered-down, compromise solution that so completely ignores on-the-record public opinion and deviates from the current law.

1. The new draft allows 1-square-foot signs in residential zones. This is unnecessarily large and exceeds the 4-inch by 10-inch signs that have been legally tested and imposed in other communities. When placed on poles or similar stanchions, hundreds of these larger signs will still be an eyesore.

2. There is no charge or permit process, which the board seems to feel would be too burdensome for the town to implement. Yet we collect fees for moorings, beach stickers and various other services. If we must endure signs of any size, why not make it a source of revenue in these challenging times for the town’s finances? Once again, other communities utilize fees as an income and control factor.

3. The time a sign is permitted — a year — is far too long. Why not limit it to three months at which time a renewal would be required along with an additional fee?

4. There is no adequate control factor related to either size or time frame. An application/permit/fee structure would facilitate this.

With an unequivocal and broad-based mandate to act forcefully to limit and discourage commercial signs in residential areas, I believe the residents of the Island expect that the board will do all at its disposal to enact a law that responds to public demand and the benefit of the entire community. The current draft falls far short of accomplishing this goal.