Over the past several months, the Planning and Zoning Commission has been conducting a review of Wilton\u2019s signregulations.According to Town Planner Bob Nerney, the reason for this is two-fold. One part is that there has been somewhat of a stir among business owners in town that speaks to the inefficacy of thecurrent restrictions.\u201cThe other thing that\u2019s happened,\u201d said Nerney, \u201cis that there was a recent U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with signage, specifically the issue of what you can regulate.\u201dThat case was Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona. On June 18, the justices unanimously held that while content-neutral restrictions may be imposed on signs, any regulation that is content-based is subject to strict and implicitly unsurvivable scrutiny by the court. In other words, the signs of a church can\u2019t be held to a different code than those of a gift shop in aparticular zone. Public opinion Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission Chris Hulse submitted a guest editorial to The Bulletin, published on June 11, that urged members of the public to share their comments and feedback concerning the current signage regulations by sending them to a temporary town email address that was kept open until July 1. \u201cWe didn\u2019t get a great response,\u201d said Nerney. \u201cWe got 17 comments during the 30 days we kept (the email address) open. There was no real, clear direction. Some thought that the regulations should be more lenient; some thought they should be more strict.\u201d The commission also contacted the Chamber of Commerce to solicit the input of its membership. \u201cThey did not offer any comment,\u201d Nerney said. \u201cThe chamber said that in talking with their membership, there were no pro or con comments.\u201d Findings Although the commission was unable to get any sense of unified opinion from the public, it did compile a report that weighs Wilton\u2019s regulations against those of the surrounding municipalities. \u201cThe findings were that they are pretty much similar,\u201d Nerney said. \u201cSome communities are actually more stringent; others are less. We\u2019re kind of in the middle of the pack in terms of regulatory policy when it comes to both types of signs,\u201d \u201cboth types of signs\u201d being permanent and temporary. For instance, Wilton\u2019s permanent signs may only be illuminated by an external light source. The same is true of Weston and Greenwich, though Greenwich does allow the internal illumination of the individual letters of signs in certain business districts. Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield all allow some degree of internal lighting, and Westport allows it outright, so, with respect to lighting, Wilton seems to be more towards the restrictive end of the spectrum. In terms of size restrictions, on the other hand, Wilton looks to be more towards the \u201cmiddle of the pack,\u201d as Nerney said. Size restrictions, and the formulas by which they are defined, vary largely from town to town, judging from the results of the report. Wilton allows in its general business zone one freestanding sign with a maximum size of 18 square feet and one projecting sign with a maximum size of eight square feet per tenant. Most of the other towns considered in the report, however, formulate their allowed signs by length of building frontage. Darien allows one wall sign of one square foot per three linear feet of tenant wall frontage and one hanging sign of six square feet per building. Westport also allows one square foot of wall sign for each foot of building frontage (per tenant), capped at 50 square feet, and one hanging or projecting sign of two square feet maximum. Greenwich\u2019s total allowable sign area is equal to two square feet for every foot of building frontage, capped at 25 square feet for businesses within 35 feet of the street and 40 for those beyond 65 feet, as well as one rear entrance sign facing parking areas that can be sized up to six square feet. New Canaan allows one wall sign not more than 25 square feet in size. Weston is similar to Wilton in that it defines a maximum size restriction for signage regardless of building frontage. Weston allows one wall sign of 12 square feet and one shopping center sign of the same dimensions. Wilton, thus, allows for larger wall signs than does Weston, and for a greater number of signs per tenant than does New Canaan. Because their size stipulations are calculated per foot of linear building frontage, businesses in Darien, Greenwich and Westport can have larger signs than Wilton, but they can also be limited to smaller ones. In these towns, everything depends on the space leased by the tenant. Nerney\u2019s opinion The commission discussed the signage review at its meeting on Sept. 28. Because both the response from the public and the results of the report were relatively \u201cinconclusive,\u201d as Hulse termed them, Nerney suggested the commission wait to modify the regulations until the American Planning Association (APA) made official recommendations based on the outcome of the aforementioned Supreme Court case. Hulse, however, wanted to push the process forward, and was not inclined to wait for the APA\u2019s direction. \u201cI think your ideas would be as good as any,\u201d said Hulse to Nerney, prompting him for his opinion. \u201cTry to encourage, maybe, banner signs, more graphic-type signs,\u201d Nerney said. \u201cThat\u2019s the kind of thing that has a little bit of charm; I can picture that working well downtown. We also have the Stop & Shop development where buildings have entrances on both sides, and our regulations don\u2019t accommodate that.\u201d \u201cOne of my thoughts was to take all of the signage up by School Road and (Route) 7, get rid of them all, and have some sort of changeable copy ... but again ... I don\u2019t think that would be permissible,\u201d Nerney added. The commission will further discuss the review at its next meeting on Oct. 13.