Editorial: What's your sign?

Signs are always a contentious issue in a town, from “for sale” signs on private lawns to political signs to commercial signs advertising businesses. In Wilton, this latter issue is ripe for greater consideration.

Wilton’s zoning regulations devote several pages to signs. Most of them are devoted to safety features, such as not interfering with vehicular or pedestrian traffic. Other regulations affect aesthetics, such as those that prohibit flashing or moving lights or signs that rotate or move in any way. Billboards also are prohibited. Regulations also take into consideration size, material, placement, etc.

Sign questions can be especially irksome when chain businesses move in with their own ideas about marketing, branding and visual appeal.

Recently, however, questions about sandwich board signs — which are allowed under restricted conditions — and internally illuminated signs, such as neon signs, which are expressly prohibited, have arisen.

Signs, as Town Planner Bob Nerney has said, do not make or break a business, but they are important. If customers cannot find a business, they cannot spend their money and the business loses out. On the other hand, no one wants to see Route 7 turned into the Las Vegas strip.

The Planning & Zoning Commission is moving in the right direction to consider new sign regulations, and inviting the Wilton Chamber of Commerce to gather information from its members will be helpful in knowing what the business community wants and needs. It is also looking at what Wilton’s neighbors are doing. No doubt, safety officials will weigh in as well.

But the commission should also actively seek input from citizens on what they feel would be helpful changes, as well as what they do not want to see.

Under state law, the commission may initiate an application to amend the town’s zoning regulations, but it must also hold a public hearing. Citizens may be heard in person at a public hearing and may also express their views in writing.

A thriving business community is essential to the well-being of any town, but Wilton has worked hard to maintain a pleasant atmosphere for residents, shoppers and visitors. An even hand to balance aesthetics with practicality is needed. Shoppers must be able to easily see the names of businesses, whether they are walking or driving, but we don’t need fireworks either.