Naples moratorium stops LED sign permits

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The local selectmen put a stop to any more digital sign permits being issued in the Town of Naples.

No new LED signs. 

On Monday, the Naples Board of Selectmen put in place a digital sign moratorium.

“We had someone call around and tell people you better go out and get digital signs. That is how crazy this has been in last 24 hours,” Chairman Jim Grattelo said.

“On April, 30, the town is going to be forced to vote on something because better than what we have on book right now,” he said. “I don’t think this issue is over.”

The chairman’s words ring true: a proposed Sign Ordinance faces a public hearing on Feb. 25. At that time, the selectmen can offer input and vote on the ordinance. If the comments on Monday are any indication of the public’s interest, there is certain to be plenty of testimony at the upcoming hearing.

Grattelo explained the purpose of the moratorium, which went into effect on Monday.

“This moratorium is to stop any sign permit that allows for an LED sign. We need to put the brakes on this,” he said.

“What this is all about is the Ordinance Review Committee (ORC) is trying to draft an updated Sign Ordinance for the Town of Naples. They’ve had progress, setbacks, progress, setbacks. In the meantime, we have had an influx in requests for signs,” Grattelo said.

“It was the wishes of the town to put a stop on any new sign permits until we have Town Meeting on April 30,” he said.

The final draft of the proposed Sign Ordinance was completed late last week.

Prior to the selectmen’s vote on the moratorium, residents expressed their viewpoints. Likewise, members of the board spoke.

Selectmen Rich Cebra and Jim Turpin illustrated the varied opinions on the sign ordinance.

Cebra voted in opposition of the moratorium. Cebra said business-owners should be able to dictate what signs they choose, and the town should allow them that freedom.

Turpin advocated for keeping the rural, rustic look — especially on the Causeway. Turpin said he and his wife moved to Naples because of the scenery. He described driving across the Causeway on a snowy day and enjoying the absence of signs. He wasn’t opposed to restricting all digital signs on the Causeway.

“It seems to me if I wasn’t on the board, I would put together a citizens’ initiative to ban all digital signs,” Turpin said.

Chairman Grattelo said, “Mr. Cebra and Mr. Turpin are right. They are [both] 100% right.”

“It is very clear that the Town of Naples is at a crossroads, a fork in the road, right now,” he said. “A lot of people who have skin in this game and people who don’t have skin in the game” are weighing in on the sign ordinance and the future appearance of the town.   

“Naples has been pro-business forever, and it will continue to be. Equally important to that is tourism. The five of us here have a difficult position and have to weigh all the factors,” Grattelo said.

Cebra held his tongue until everyone else had spoken.

“First of all, if you own a business it is your business,” he said, adding it should not be up to other people to tell business-owners what they need to do with the business signs on their private property.

“We have this thing in Naples. It’s called when-I-got-here-itis,” he said, explaining the people long for the town to be the same as it was when they first arrived whether that is the 1950’s, the 1970’s or early 2000’s.

“You are stopping businesses from the free market because of this moratorium, because you want Naples to be this quaint town with chalkboard signs,” he said.

“At this point, I cannot support this. It is unfair to businesses that haven’t done it yet and it gives businesses that have done it an unfair advantage,” he said.

Cebra made a motion to table the moratorium, but the motion died because none of the board members seconded it.

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