New sign rules up for hearing

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

New restrictions on the use of temporary signs are in store for Bridgton businesses under a revised sign ordinance finalized by the Bridgton Planning Board on Tuesday. The rules would allow businesses to have no more than two temporary signs, with a size no larger than six square feet.

The board has been working on the signage revisions for over a year now, and Chairman Steve Collins was clearly pleased to finalize the document Tuesday.

"I am so proud of us," he said. Work on the revisions was sparked by concerns that too many temporary signs were unsightly and having a negative effect on Bridgton's business climate.

The revised sign ordinance will be up for a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m., in the Bridgton Municipal Complex, in preparation for a Town Meeting vote this June. Also to be aired at the hearing will be revisions to the Site Plan Review Ordinance, Subdivision Regulations, Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, Bear River Aquifer Ordinance, Willis Brook Aquifer Ordinance, and a new Fire Protection Ordinance.

The revised sign rules will also include a ban on the placement of temporary signs in median strips in town to advertise upcoming events. The board included the ban at the request of Selectman Bernie King, who views their placement as unsightly and potentially creating a safety hazard.

Before agreeing to King's request, the board sought an opinion from the Maine Department of Transportation, since the median strip at Pondicherry Square is within a state highway, Route 302. MDOT said although the state bans signs within median strips, enforcement is not practical. The board agreed to assign the code enforcement officer or his designee to enforce the ban. King noted that compliance with the ban is happening already, since he has not noticed any signs in the median strip since he brought up the issue.

"At first it was 50–50 (in favor of the ban versus opposed)" on whether signs in the median strip should be allowed, King said, when he talked to residents about the issue. "But that has since changed to 90–10 (in favor of the ban). They said it would clean up the area,"

Board Alternate Adam Grant also has a pet beef about the new L.E.D. signs that have gone up in other towns. Unlike the Magic Lantern sign that lists films that are showing, the newer L.E.D. signs have the capacity to flash different colors and different messages in a manner he finds unsightly. Grant cited the L.E.D. sign at the Oxford Public Safety Building on Route 26, and the Lake Region High School sign, as examples.

The board agreed to include language in the ordinance stating that so-called "changeable" signs must conform to state statutes that restrict how often they can change.

The ordinance allows businesses to have no more than one freestanding business sign. In buildings with more than one tenant, that sign will consolidate signs for all of the individual tenants. Space on the side of the building may be provided to list individual tenants, or they may be listed separately on the freestanding sign.

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