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Mayor proposes amendment on signs

By Erin O'Connor, Staff Writer

WEST SPRINGFIELD On May 16, Mayor Edward J. Gibson petitioned the Planning Board for an amendment for the city's sign ordinance.

His proposed amendment was presented by City Planner Richard Werbiskis and requested altering the way a sign was measured, the coloring of the sign and lighting for it.

"The proposed amendment is how an area of a sign is calculated," Werbiskis said. "What is a supporting structure and what is not a supporting structure and the use of color and the use of lighting."

According to Werbiskis, the new sign amendment would ask that the sign be no more than 50 feet and the base of the sign would not exceed the sign. It also requested the sign base be a neutral color and that the buffer of the sign be green.

Werbiskis said the amendment is necessary because the general public and businesses would like to see more clarity on the sign terminology.

Under the current definition, the base of the sign and the sign are considered one large sign. The amendment would cause the calculations of the sign to be separated from that of the sign and that of the supporting structure.

Members of the Board questioned the issues of the neutral color and what is proper lighting. Werbiskis said the amendment would state that the area of the base of the sign could not exceed the area of the sign itself.

"Sometimes you have no choice as to where the manufacturer puts the color and sometimes the manufacturer determines that opening between the two posts [sign base]," James Demas, a car dealer representative, said. "Manufacturers spend millions of dollars on researching this information," he added. "We wouldn't want to put West Springfield in a position where manufacturers say you have to have these signs."

"Who determines?" Werbiskis questioned Demas. "Is it the community itself or corporate America?"

"You [Board of Appeals] can't prevent a building from coming in and painting itself pink but you can tell them what color their sign is?" David Chase, of the Planning Board questioned.

Werbiskis responded to Chase's question with affirmation.

"Most [of amendment] looks pretty good," Planning Board Chairman Aldo Bertera said. "Some members have a problem with the poles. This is something to work for, something to compromise. If someone has a pole that is two inches wider because it is part of corporate America then maybe some kind of variance can be put in."

Kathleen Harrington of the Planning Board said it would be wise to see if there were current literature in existence that defined what neutral colors were.

According to Bertera, the colors would be fine as long as they were not, "wild and crazy."

"It is what the town wants," Bertera said. "They don't want everybody's sign with this color or that color or to win the race with whose sign sticks out the most. They are looking for clarity."

"It's got to be practical to get national franchises to feel like this is a business friendly town," Jeb Balise said. "A variance is almost impossible now regarding signage. If you write the language too tightly and end up with requesting a variance it probably won't go through."

"To rely on a variance I think you got to get somewhat specific," Frank Palange of the Planning Board said. "Not too specific because it comes down to opinion."

The hearing on the zoning amendment was motioned by the Planning Board to be continued until June 6 at 7:10 p.m.

Members of the Ordinance Committee were present to bring comments back to their Committee that will be meeting in three weeks from now to discuss Gibson's proposed amendment.