Below you will find the contents of an email from Sturbridge Town Planner Jean Bubon regarding changes to the town's signage bylaw and the public hearing on the same to be held at Town Hall on April 2, 2013. We encourage you to share this information with those who have businesses in the Town of Sturbridge. You may also see the DRAFT SIGN BYLAW and Definitions embedded as PDF documents here.Thank you!
I am sending this email to you because you either attended the Sign Forum that we held in November or you had contacted this office with an interest in the proposed sign bylaw. The Planning Board at its meeting of 3/12/13 voted to be the Petitioner for the attached draft bylaw. That Public Hearing will be held on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 6:35 pm at the Town Hall in Veteran's Memorial Hall. There are many changes proposed that hopefully address a lot of the ideas and concerns that were conveyed to us during the Forum. While it is not really possible to please everyone with a bylaw proposal, this draft bylaw provides good balance between the public and private needs and issues associated with signage. The following are some highlights of the changes proposed:
1. The Purpose and Intent section has been re-written to better reflect that the purpose of the bylaw is to provide balance between public and private interests;
2. The Draft Bylaw makes provisions for the erection of signs in residential districts for businesses that are permitted to operate there. For instance certain uses such as hospitals, veterinarians, micro-brewery and campground (to name a few) are all permitted in residential districts, but there is currently no provision to allow signage in the residential district.
3. A Special Permit section has been added so that if you have a real reason for needing a different type of sign there will be a provision allowing you to apply for that. Good examples are those we discussed at the Forum such as a multi-tenant property with a large number of tenants, or a different type of use such as the cinema that needs additional signage. These special permits of course are discretionary.
4. Added a provision that all businesses may use a sandwich board sign, but the sign must be removed at the close of business and must go through the design review process. We are hoping to encourage nicely designed signs that will be an investment in your business and the community. Recognizing that this will be an expense, we have added a sunset clause that will allow you to use your existing sandwich board signs for 18 months to allow time for you to have a new sign designed and approved by the Design Review Committee and then constructed. Some businesses temporary signs already match their main signs so you could apply to continue to use these signs. Gone will be the 9 time per year limitation.
5. Added a provision for temporary signs that may be banners or signs flat on the building in recognition of the fact that not everyone can have a sandwich board sign due to the location of the building. These may be used once per month by permit.
6. Added standards for drive-thru menu boards (currently not listed as permitted in the bylaw)
7. Allow Grand Opening signage with a permit from the Building Inspector for new businesses or businesses that have substantially remodeled and are having a grand re-opening.
8. Now will allow flags that have a trademark or logotype or similar information.
9. Have removed the prohibition on white lights when used to accent an entryway or something similar.
10. Removed the prohibition on merchandise display in the setbacks (of course you still cannot block visibility or sidewalks).
11. Encourage the use of changeable panels on signs.
We have really tried to incorporate the input received from businesses, residents and board members into this draft proposal. As noted the Public Hearing will be held in April. The proposal will then go to the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee with the latter having the main motion on the floor at Town Meeting.
Hope to see you at the Public Hearing. If you have specific questions you may contact me.
Jean M. Bubon, AICP
Center Office Building
301 Main Street
Sturbridge, Ma. 01566