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Lit ‘Open/Closed’ signs may be okay

Richard D. L. Fulton

(1/10) The Fairfield Borough Planning Commission continued to mull potential changes to municipal regulations governing signage at their January 9 meeting.

A review of the signage rules was initiated recently after municipal officials took note of the numbers of uncomforting business signs that had increased over time in the Village Core and Historic District within the borough.

The issue of reviewing standards for the colors of signage in the Historic District is now pending before the borough Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB).

The planning commission reviewed comments from Councilman Dean Thomas, who also serves as the chairman of HARB, at their January 9 meeting.

Thomas’ comments included inserting the word "color" among the checklist of things HARB can take into account when reviewing certificate of appropriateness applications.

Commission member Carroll Smith, also a member of the borough Council, stated he had no problem with adding color to the list of attributes HARB could review.

However, one comment submitted by Thomas seemed to suggest he was suggesting the commission consider regulating interior (indoor), lit signage, although the commission stated Thomas could have meant interiorly-lit outdoor signage.

Pending clarification of Thomas’ comments regarding lit signs, the planning commission did generally concede they did not want to regulate internally-lit "Open" and "Closed" signs sometimes placed inside store windows.

"You can go too far with some of these things," Smith said. "It may be a question of whether they (a store) get business or not unless someone knows whether or not they are open."

Zoning Officer and planning commission member Francis Cool noted that he had been advised by borough Solicitor Matthew Battersby not to try to enforce indoor signs under the present ordinance. "He said I can’t regulate anything inside of a building."

County Department of Planning and Development Planner Robert Thaeler told the commission, "That (regulating interior signs) could get into a very difficult enforcement process if you wanted to go after that. I suggest you sit tight until you hear back from HARB."

Thomas also suggested eliminating national brand signs, but only in the Highway Commercial District (Village Core).

"I’d be totally against that," Smith stated, but questioned if Thomas comment wasn’t in error since similar signage is permitted in the Village Core but was not mentioned.

Thomas confirmed with the News-Journal the following day that he had intended for the comment to apply to the Village Core, not the Highway Commercial District.

The commission decided to continue the discussion regarding potential new or amended sign regulations after receiving comments from HARB as a whole.

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