by Joshua Maloni
Say goodbye to the sandwich board.
At least for now.
Trustees in the Village of Lewiston voted Tuesday to amend a portion of the municipal law dealing with sign regulations. The most notable changes include prohibition of A-frame or "sandwich board" signs, and stronger language banning flashing electronic and neon lights.
"Essentially, we made a number of changes that had to deal with form, with respect to the structuring of the way the various phrases were put in there," said Planning Board/Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Kenneth Slaugenhoupt.
The code update brings to a close analysis of the sign law that's taken the better part of two years.
"Credit to the Planning Board; they have been working on this, probably about a year-and-a-half," Trustee Vic Eydt said. "They've held numerous, numerous meetings. They've had revision after revision after revision. And one of the biggest topics was sign boards."
"We've been going around and around and around in circles on sandwich boards," Mayor Terry Collesano said. "It's been a thorn in our sides for quite some time."
Prior to the meeting, sandwich boards were allowed with a permit from the village's Planning Board. Not all business owners were aware of that fact. Many times, then, if one retailer or restaurateur saw a neighbor or competitor with such a sign, said businessperson would plant a sign, too.
The village's zoning officer would then have to travel around Center Street checking to see which businesses had permitted signs.
Collesano called this sign-policing process "cumbersome."
"It was too much for us to do," he said.
Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said sandwich boards are difficult to get around when sidewalks filled with people. Plus, he said these signs pose a liability threat to the village. If someone were to trip on one, for instance, the municipality could face a lawsuit.
Sutherland said permitted sandwich board signs were supposed to be taken down at the close of the business day. Some remain upright and outside 24 hours a day.
Mike Fiore, who owns and operates the Village Bake Shoppe with his wife, Lindsay, said, "Our sandwich board does help us generate revenue, especially if we have a new product, we have something that we're offering - maybe a discount."
"(We) work seven days a week, 365 days a year, in a state that's not really the best ... with small businesses," he added.
Fiore asked if there was a way for business owners and elected/appointed leaders to work together to find a replacement for sandwich board signs.
Slaugenhoupt said his board carefully considered what effect the sign law changes would have on business owners. He said it was "paramount in our mind." He and his colleagues took time to visit village stores and speak with business owners. They also hosted a public hearing.
Once the updated law takes effect, he said the Planning Board would be open to discussing sign or business marketing alternatives.
"My personal opinion at this stage is I would like to see what we've done get completed, but then make a commitment to continue to work with the business community," Slaugenhoupt said.
Collesano suggested retailers and restaurant owners take the Planning Board up on its offer.
Moreover, Trustee Nick Conde said, "Let us know if it truly is hurting your business."
"I wouldn't say it was hurting our business, it's just more or less it always helps," Fiore replied. He added, "It was a great added bonus to be able to have something out."
In addition to the sandwich board changes, the new sign law shines a brighter light on the Village Board's aversion to flashing electronic and neon bulbs. "Open-closed" is the only lit sign allowed and, even then, those words must be static - the letters can't flash, rotate or move in any other way.
Hard copies of the sign law changes are available in the mayor's office, located inside the Red Brick Municipal Building, 145 N. Fourth St.
Existing permitted signs will not be affected by the code changes.
The Village Board is working with the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce and Zoning Officer Harry Wright in preparing a welcome kit, of sorts, for new business owners, informing them of the sign laws.