Berlin Looks To Solidify Policy On Sidewalk Signs

BERLIN – Merchants with sidewalk signs may have to make some changes in how they advertise their businesses after the Berlin Historic District Commission (HDC) determined only one of those merchants has the proper permit.

“We’re suggesting sidewalk signs not be allowed,” said Bob McIntosh, HDC chair, to the Berlin Planning Commission.

Roughly 13 sidewalk signs, also called A-frame or sandwich signs, are put out most days in downtown Berlin, but only one has the necessary permit from the HDC.

According to the code, sidewalk signs must be placed in front of the business in question and not used to advertise businesses on the side streets. Cam Bunting, whose real estate office lies on Broad Street off Main St., just purchased such a sign to direct customers to her location. “I need some way to direct traffic to my business,” she said. “The merchants do need the A-frames.”

Planning Commissioner Joe Hill agreed, saying, “They are important to certain businesses like Ta Da and Bruder Hill.”

McIntosh said the signs are unsightly and pointed out the sidewalks are not wide enough. “It junks up the town. We’d like to have it prohibited,” he said.

The town needs to get serious about cleaning up, Planning Commission Chair Pete Cosby said.

“Let’s get the streets looking right. Get rid of the sign clutter,” said Cosby.

McIntosh suggested adding off Main St. merchant signs to the Victorian light poles downtown.

“If we can put [the signs] on the pole, I’m for that,” Bunting said.

Resident Ed Hammond said Berlin must be careful with its appearance.

“When the town starts to look like every other fixed up Mother Goose Disneyfied town, you’ll have destroyed what some of us in town have tried to achieve,” said Hammond, who suggested requiring three different store advertisements on one sign or checking on how signs were displayed in 1890.

Cosby said there are many issues to consider. “There are a lot of things to be decided,” Cosby said. “We don’t want the town to look like every other cutesy town that’s being redone.”

The planning commission concluded it would ask the Commercial District Managing Authority to come up with some ideas on the sidewalk signs.

“If it becomes a problem we’ll just enforce the code and it’ll become burdensome on them,” Cosby said.

The town already has a comprehensive sign ordinance, said planning consultant Tim Bourcier.

“Maybe we need to get that ordinance brushed up,” Cosby said.