Letter: Town's sign rules harm businesses

To the Editors:

I am writing to express my perspective on the visibility of businesses in Wilton. My boutique, Blue Star Bazaar, is on Danbury Road. Recently, I was issued a warning for the sandwich board sign that identifies my business to passersby. I will be fined $100 a day for each day the sign remains.

I was aware of the town ordinance restricting temporary signs to two weeks at a time, up to three times per year, with 30 days between permits. My permit had expired. Why did I take the risk of receiving a $100 fine?  When the sign is in place, my sales are double to triple the average volume of when the sign is removed. This is the difference between profit and loss; occupancy and vacancy.

There are many vacancy signs in town. Ironically, landlords or commercial brokers attempting to fill an empty commercial space are exempt from the same restrictions and permit process. As a town, we promote empty storefronts but not occupied ones. When a business signs a lease, it does not receive the same privileges as landlords and brokers.

Property owners are responsible for permanent roadside signage. Tenants do not have the right to make modifications to these signs. We only have the right to post signs on the building within previously defined parameters.

My landlord, Wilton Historical Society, is developing new signs. This process has been years in design, months in approval, with a timeline yet to be determined for implementation. I can voice “suggestions” to my landlord. I am not permitted to weigh in on the issue when presented to Planning & Zoning.

On my storefront, I am allowed two square feet of signage. The structure is approximately 100 feet from the road and obstructed by another building. It is difficult to make people see a two-foot sign. Again, only my landlord can petition P&Z for a change to this restriction — not an efficient solution when a couple months of bad sales can force a business to close.

I spend thousands of dollars annually to promote my business to Wilton’s 6,000 households. Thousands more people pass through our town each day on Route 7. These people drive right past my business and don’t even know I’m here.

I urge our first selectman and Planning & Zoning Commission to consider the following:

1) Create one set of rules for all businesses in Wilton. Landlords, brokers and tenants should follow the same rules on permits, size and duration for temporary signs.

2) Create a sign option to allow attractive temporary signs to identify businesses. Perhaps this includes restrictions on materials, design aesthetics, sign maintenance (damaged or dirty signs should be removed), times for display (business hours only and removal during snowfall).

3) Require permits and charge a fee. Permits in six-month increments would prevent signs from becoming dilapidated. A $100 fee per six months could also help fund town landscaping and identification to make Wilton more attractive as a shopping and dining destination.

Megan Abrahamsen

Wilton, Nov. 11