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To place a sign by Crane Park, bylaw must be changed

Date: 10/5/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM For now, the shops located behind Crane Park will have to continue to rely on their loyal customers and word of mouth to advertise their businesses.

The Burt Lane businesses -- also known as the shops within Bank of America Commons -- currently do not have any signs on Main Street to let passersby know what is located within the small business park.

Shahriar Allahyari, owner of Wilbraham Pizzeria, which is located in the park, came before the Board of Selectmen and members of the Planning Board last Tuesday to ask what could be done to better promote his business, specifically looking for approval for a sign listing all the businesses within the park.

Allahyari presented petitions to the selectmen, as well as letters of support from local legislators, at their Aug. 17 meeting. He and his wife Nikki opened Wilbraham Pizzeria on Jan. 25, 2008.

"We're asking somebody to help us," Nikki told the selectmen. She and her husband explained a sign like this wouldn't benefit only them - it would benefit the businesses in the park as well.

The issue they're up against is where the sign can be placed and what it can contain. Private properties can have signs for individual businesses; owners in the park tried to purchase a slice of Wilbraham United Church property for a sign, but the church declined the sale. Signs on public property can advertise a park, but cannot list individual businesses.

Eric Fuller, chair of the Planning Board, noted that an off-premises sign can indicate the direction or distance to a business park, but nothing more.

"We're restricted by the zoning bylaw ordinance," David Barry, chair of the Board of Selectmen, stated. "We have to live by these rules."

Michael Margolis of Margolis Orthodontics, which is located in the park, asked why the bylaw couldn't be changed for this unique situation, since there are no others like it in town. Fuller told him he'd have to come before the Planning Board presenting the merits of the proposed change, which would have to be approved by the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, before it went to a public forum and then on to Town Meeting, where a two-thirds majority vote would be needed to change the bylaw.

Paul Murray, who resides on Main Street across from Burt Lane, said he sympathized with the businesses located in the park, adding that "the key to this situation is renaming [the park] and then creating an identity" so customers knew more about the goods and services offered there.

"Our hands are basically tied," Barry told the Allahyaris. He suggested that if they didn't go ahead with the zone change proposal, they could promote their business more in advertisements by mentioning Crane Park.

No action was taken by the selectmen at the end of the informal hearing on the sign matter.