Selectmen Approve Limits on Temporary Signs

January 10, 2014
by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

The battle over temporary signs on the side of town roads could soon come to a close with selectmen approving a zoning board amendment clarifying their usage.

The amendment allows qualifying organizations to post signs on private property two weeks before an event, with verbal permission from the property owner, up to three times per year.

Per the amendment, qualifying events are: “A special event taking place in the Town of Salem and occurring no more than three times per calendar year.”

Qualifying organizations are non-profits, organizations eligible to be registered as non-profits and charities.  The event must be for the benefit of the organization.

The amendment also restricts the size of signs, number of signs on a person’s property and states they must be removed 48 hours after the event.

Relay for Life member Jon Tripp asked the board to consider allowing additional directional signs to be posted on the day of an event.  He said signs help welcome the public to the relay when the event is underway.

Chairman Everett McBride said under the amendment, those signs could be posted on private property.

Selectman James Keller, agreed with the proposal.  “It’s a starting point and I think we need some boundaries.”  He questioned what the right number of times to allow organizations to post signs would be.  “When do you get to a place where enough is enough?” he asked.

The amendment wouldn’t limit organizations with subgroups in town such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  Assistant Town Manager Leon Goodwin clarified the amendment, saying each section of the organization would be allowed three sign postings per year.

Selectman Michael Lyons feared the ruling would not be effective.  “There is a policy (currently), we don’t enforce it at all,” he said.

Hickey said the position was eliminated by the board.  “The person who’s supposed to be doing this was cut from the budget four years ago.”

Hickey added a citizens’ petition was being brought fourth at the town meeting regarding signs, but that it was being proposed as a selectmen’s amendment rather than a zoning amendment, and if approved, would only be advisory.

Debate over temporary signs was sparked last year when the board noticed farmers market’s signs posted for extensive amounts of time.  They then told the organization signs could not be posted except for specified locations and on private property on the day of the event.

Salem Farmers Market Director Jane Lang said this amendment wouldn’t help her organization, which is struggling to reach residents.

“I feel that we’re being segregated from other non-profits,” she said noting the market was registered with the state.  “We are a registered non-profit.”

Lang says the market needs to post signs on the day of operation since the location can be hard to find.  The summer market currently operates in Lake Street Garden Center on Lake Street and she feels additional signs are necessary.  “We take them right down,” she said adding they are only up a few hours a week.

The amendment does not allow signs to be posted in the public right-of-way or on town property.

The planning board will hold a public hearing on January 21 to discuss the amendment and will seek public input.