Orange deals with sign complaints

The Bohemian Kitchen has moved its sign off the sidewalk on North Main St in Ornage Center.  Recorder/Paul Franz

The Bohemian Kitchen has moved its sign off the sidewalk on North Main St in Ornage Center. Recorder/Paul Franz

ORANGE — As officials work to encourage business development in Orange, they are learning that town laws designed to prevent pedestrians from tripping over sidewalk signs may be inadvertently pose an obstacle for small businesses.

Selectman Kathy Reinig said that town regulations around peddling prevent businesses from posting signs directly on the sidewalk outside their establishment.

Currently, a business that posts such signs can be fined $50 a day. But as many businesses are located on a second floor or back apartment of a building, she said, they may have no other way of advertising their whereabouts to customers looking for them.

She added that if a proposal for changing the law went through the normal channels, it would take months to resolve — as voters would ultimately need to approve it at a town meeting. Reinig felt the issue was too pressing for that review process.

“For many struggling small businesses, having to wait until June to have a sign letting people know where they are is a great burden.”

She suggested a more appropriate rule would limit the width of the signs “so they don’t stick out any further than the flower pots” that currently sit outside many buildings.

She said these signs “would allow full passage” of pedestrian traffic, but would allow small businesses that are not facing the street the opportunity to advertise their location. She added such signs should be displayed only when the business is open.

Robert St. Marie, a resident who attended the meeting, advised the board that federal access laws stipulate there must be 46 inches of clearance on a pedestrian walkway so that wheelchairs can maneuver safely.

Selectboard Chairman George Willard suggested another possible location for sidewalk signs is the metal grating that was installed to protect the roots of shade trees lining the streets. Willard also said it would be important for the signs no matter where they are located on the sidewalk to be secure so they don’t blow into the street.

Selectman David Ames said, “The number one best solution and most appropriate signage would be on the building itself.”

The board agreed to draft a letter to the Planning Board to review and speed the resolution of the issue.

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