Wilton may get new, uniform sign policy after violations

All of Wilton will soon have new signage regulations after a subcommittee formed by the Economic Development Commission surveys local businesses to get their take.

All of Wilton will soon have new signage regulations after a subcommittee formed by the Economic Development Commission surveys local businesses to get their take.

Bryan Haeffele / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Officials are looking into a new, uniform sign policy for businesses in town after spotting numerous violations with the current one.

The Economic Development Commission is trying to figure out the businesses' signage needs as part of the effort — its first first major project after recent discussions to refocus the group's efforts. It will suggest uniform signage regulations to the Planning and Zoning Commission for all Wilton businesses.

Under local zoning regulations, the town currently does not allow specific types of signage. Those include neon signs, feather flag banners and "sandwich boards," or A-frame foldable signs frequently seen on sidewalks.

Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said there have been many violations in town.

"I remember when I first got elected, and every time I would take a walk through Wilton Center, or down to the high school, I'm noticing all of these violations that I didn't notice before I was elected," Vanderslice said. "So, I think if you do the same thing and start to pay attention, you know, you'll see that we don't allow neon signs but you'll notice there are some people who consistently put them up."

She compared it to neighboring towns who are much stricter in their signage enforcement.

"You go down to Darien, it's extremely strict," Vanderslice said. "You won't see one sandwich board."

Wilton's penalty for a violation is a fine and asking the sign be removed. The town employs one zoning enforcement officer who checks for violations, but Vanderslice said businesses usually revert back to using the illegal signage a short time after being noticed by the town.

Vanderslice noted that part of the problem may be that the process to find the town's current signage regulations may be too convoluted. Currently, new business owners have to go through a dense, full list of all of the town's regulations. 

"We're going to work on that, because the information is out there, but it's too hard for people to go through the regulations," Vanderslice said. "And if you've never owned a business before, it's likely you may not know the question to ask."

The Economic Development Commission will now create a subcommittee to survey local business owners to find their specific signage needs before putting together its formal suggestion, which will be presented to the Board of Selectmen before going to Planning and Zoning to pass a final, uniform regulation.

Vanderslice noted that signage cannot be regulated based on its content, but rather the size and appearance.