Are town signs ready for a makeover?

The issue of commercial signs has been percolating for some time, but it has really heated up in the last few months since the Wilton Historical Society brought the issue before the Planning & Zoning Commission with a request for new signs.

Now the head of the commission says he has a plan for the development of new commercial sign regulations in town.

Christopher Hulse, chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, told the Board of Selectmen Monday evening his commission plans to share its research into sign regulations — both in Wilton and area towns — with the Wilton Chamber of Commerce, which will then compile suggestions and grievances from its members on future regulation changes.

“The Chamber will come in to Planning & Zoning, and tell us what about the regulations they would like to see altered. We thought it was in the best interest of the town to get feedback from the Chamber,” Mr. Hulse said.

He and Town Planner Bob Nerney also said the commission plans to invite any interested party to speak before the commission on the topic, whether a resident landowners or not.

“If you have a business owner that is not a land owner, I don’t see the reason why they couldn’t bring their concerns to the table. They are a part of the community even if they don’t live here,” Mr. Nerney said.

In an email Tuesday, Mr. Nerney said businesses, property owners, public safety officials, and residents would be allowed to provide ideas and information to the Planning & Zoning Commission “for the purpose of promulgating regulations that best serve the town.”

The town planner said he and the commission are sympathetic to the needs of retailers in town, but also warned that there is much more involved in the success of a business than the size of one’s signs.

“We have certainly gone through a very soft economy, and a lot of businesses have been hurt by the economy. It continues to be soft, and I’ve had business owners also to the point of crying in my office, telling me they are on the verge of going out of business.

“I don’t think that the signage is the single issue that’s driving this. It’s a much, much bigger issue. In 2015, hopefully things will continue to improve. [Until then we’re still] trying to strike the balance between safety and aesthetics, but also recognize that a lot of businesses continue to struggle.”

The owner of the Blue Star Bazaar, Megan Abrahamsen, has been the most vocal critic of signage regulations in town, and last week Burrito Shack owner Johnny Wilson echoed her concerns.

Mr. Wilson, a lifelong resident who previously ran a catering business out of the old Georgetown Saloon, said Wilton’s town regulations made it difficult for him to prosper at his Route 7 location.

Between the sudden enforcement of rules that prohibited his well-known A-frame signs and his inability to use a neon “open” sign, “people thought we were closed, or had closed down for good,” he said.

“I’m already in a tough spot, because this is a pretty dead part of Route 7,” he said.

Mr. Wilson has since moved his business to Newtown.