Enforcement of sign rules seen lacking in Bridgton

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Too many sandwich board event signs in the median are making Pondicherry Square look “trashy,” Selectman Bernie King believes. He wants it to stop.

The square, at the corner of Main Street and Routes 302 and 117, is the gateway to downtown Bridgton, where aesthetics are particularly important. Local divisions of state highway crews used to be pretty good at policing the median, but no longer, said Chairman Doug Taft.

“I don’t care who does it, I just think it needs to be cleaned up because it’s trashy,” King said.

Safety also becomes an issue when it’s windy and flimsier sandwich board signs blow over, sometimes ending up in the road. “I like the square without all those sandwich signs,” King said during the “Selectmen’s Concerns” portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

King wasn’t the only selectman who had signage concerns. Member Paul Hoyt wanted to know whether McDonald’s restaurant on the Portland Road had permission to put all of the small signs around the perimeter of its property announcing daily special menus. He said he’s seen up to 10 of the signs around the property at one time.

“If they’re legal to be there, great; if not, they need to be taken down,” Hoyt said.

Member Ken Murphy echoed King’s complaint about the signs in the square, and repeated his concern that the town needs to do a better job enforcing the law requiring property owners to visibly display the number of the street address on the front of their buildings.

“I’ve felt all along that we do have too many signs, like Bernie said,” Murphy said. “It’s overkill. Too many signs in too many places.”

Irregular or inadequate enforcement of the town’s existing Sign Ordinance is also seen as a problem. At Tuesday’s meeting, Community Development Committee Chairman Chuck Renneker bemoaned “the inequitable enforcement of a lot of the ordinances in this town.”

A year or so ago, the Planning Board attempted to make revisions in the Sign Ordinance, particularly with regard to the so-call “message boards” that allow businesses to advertize special sales or promotions. After strong opposition arose from the business community, however, the changes did not take place. The Planning Board is currently trying again to make changes to signage rules such that they will be more enforceable.

A third signage concern that King brought up Tuesday wasn’t about too many signs. Instead, he said there aren’t enough signs in town giving directions to the Salmon Point Campground.

“The only sign for the campground is that one little sign” off the Kansas Road, located on Salmon Point Road at the entrance to the town-owned campground. Recreation Director Gary Colello later echoed that concern, saying, “It’s important to have signs for the Salmon Point Campground from all points in.”

Anne Krieg, the town’s Director of Economic, Planning and Community Development, said she plans to earmark funds for signs from next year’s allotment of Community Development Block Grant funds. The money would pay for a coordinated town-wide signage program designating the town’s public resources and buildings.

Signs are seen as an important way for Bridgton to promote itself as a destination community. Comprehensive Plan Committee Chairman Bob Wiser said, “Wasn’t the town applying for a business-friendly designation from the state?”

Murphy replied, “They turned it down.” Krieg said under her breath, “It was the signs,” indicating that the lack of attention being paid by the town to signage concerns — whether there are too many, or not enough — may have been one of the reasons for the state’s decision.


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