, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 10, 2013

Seabrook petitions ask OK for roadside blade signs

SEABROOK — Blade signs, reminiscent of the jib sail on a small boat, have become a popular, inexpensive, roadside marketing tool that calls fluttering attention to small businesses in local towns.

In Seabrook, however, they’re not allowed according to the town’s sign zoning ordinance. But that could change, since the signs are the subject of two citizen’s warrant petitions that residents will vote on March 12. Both petitions will receive formal hearings at the next Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15, when the public is allowed to comment.

Small retailers often see additional signs as a way to reach out to customers driving or walking by, as they try to compete with big-box retailers.

But as independent business owners yearn to erect sign after sign in hopes of catching shoppers’ eyes, local zoning and planning boards are under pressure to present attractive streetscapes in their communities. Residents sometimes complain they don’t want hundreds of small, sometimes unattractive, signs cluttering roadsides.

Safety is also a reason why police and others are cautious about allowing an abundance of signs at the pavement’s edge, for they can interfere with the sight line of oncoming pedestrian and street traffic.

The issue became a topic of discussion in Seabrook on Dec. 4 when a number of Route 1 business owners asked the Planning Board to rewrite its sign ordinance to allow blade and other small signs. The small business owners complained they need some inexpensive marketing method to bring in customers, since they compete with Kohl’s, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart along the same stretch of roadway.

According to the draft minutes of the meeting, Mark Townsend, manager of a gold store next to Bob’s Tattoos in the little strip mall at 563 Lafayette Road, argued that blade signs are a $39.95 advertising option he’d like to utilize. But he can’t do so legally, because Seabrook’s sign ordinance prohibits them, as well as the small sandwich, or tent, signs he could place next to the roadway.

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