The issue of signage has long been a focal point over the fight regarding the character of Westford as a whole. Should Westford be more open to businesses or would too much commercial activity significantly change the nature of the town?
For the past three years the Planning Board and town’s Land Use Department have been trying to answer that question, which they hope to do through the presentation of a new, simpler sign bylaw to be presented at Fall Town Meeting on October 21.
The Planning Board opened discussion on a the warrant article proposing the bylaw change on Monday, which Westford Director of Land Use Planning Chris Kluchman hopes the clarified bylaw, which also includes illustrations, will facilitate the process of getting a sign for applicants while also maintaining parts of the old bylaw that protect the town from commercial and non-commercial sign clutter.
In particular, she stated her hopes that the creation of a “temporary sign registry” will help in regards to short term signs, such as sandwich boards.
“It’s like a burn permit: you get it once and then you’re set,” she said.
Members of a sign bylaw review committee designed to study the issue, such as Paul Fassbender, testified before the board and registered their concerns.
Fassbender issued his concerns over the definitions of office parks and shopping centers and confusion on LED Lights in the proposed bylaw, as well as a desire to further examine the bylaw on other topics.
“There are probably more examples we haven’t found yet,” said Fassbender. “Somewhere between now and a few weeks from now, it’d be good if we could understand these issues.”
Other concerns focused largely around fairness for businesses from members of the sign bylaw review committee that doubled as business owners in town.
Becky Bronson, owner of Tranquility Yoga, praised the work of the Planning Board and said she couldn’t think of significant changes to be added to the bylaw.
However, she did request that more than one sandwich board per building be allowed in commercial areas, citing that she sees significant increases in business when she puts up sandwich boards.
According to her testimony, it is difficult to put up sandwich boards under the current bylaw and it’d be next to impossible with the proposed bylaw since her business is in a shared building.
“The town wants small businesses and they’re there, and the businesses need to let the public know they’re there,” said Bronson. “It does make a difference for businesses. Without that, I think businesses are really at a disadvantage.”
Cynthia King of the Healing Point at Olde Boston Square also urged the board allow businesses to put out temporary signs for longer periods of time and to the remove restrictions that disallow commercial signs on residential properties with the exceptions of home businesses.
“I live on Depot Street a few houses back from the railroad tracks and hundreds of cars go by every day. I put out the name and phone number (of my business) and my telephone started ringing. I had it out there for quite awhile but then I got a notice in August to take it down.” she said. “None of my neighbors mind it and it helps me bring in a lot more clientele.”
The board agreed to hold further discussion on the warrant article at their next meeting on Oct. 7.
More information on the bylaw is available on the town website.