Planning Board wants to rid Greenport of sandwich board signs

The Greenport Village Planning Board is trying to find a solution for the illegal sandwich boards being displayed on downtown streets.

But they can’t seem to find a clear-cut direction to take.

“We could impound them,” village administrator David Abatelli said. But he’s not advocating that action, pointing out to Planning Board members at their work session last Thursday that time spent that way would take away from more significant problems he and building inspector Eileen Wingate have to tackle.

“I don’t really hate sandwich boards,” Mr. Abatelli said. “It’s really not the crime of the century.” There are many things that are considered a nuisance in the village, but it’s impossible to crack down on all, he said.

The only way to enforce codes is by fining those who abuse them, board member Eileen Rich said.

But Planning Board chairwoman Lara McNeil is bothered by those that stick out, making some sidewalks in the village difficult for walking.

There may be an issue of safety, board member David Bauer said. Motorists slowing to read the sandwich boards may not be paying adequate attention to traffic, he said.

Those who want to advertise their businesses could do so with sponsorship of village garbage cans, board member Amy Martin suggested.

While Greenport has no code specifically prohibiting sandwich boards, Mr. Abatelli said they’re not supposed to encumber the sidewalk and merchants don’t have permission to put them on village property.

Overhanging signs were recently made legal in the village, but they’re limited in size to two square feet and those business owners applying for them must show they’re safely secured and that there’s insurance coverage in the event of an accident.

But many existing overhanging signs in the village don’t comply with size limitations and Planning Board members questioned  whether all are grandfathered, and therefore allowed to remain.

Mr. Abatelli said he assumed there must be some relief for those who have long-existing overhead signs.

“Relief for people who break the law,” Ms. McNeil quipped.

“I really don’t know what the end relief will be,” Mr. Abatelli responded. He referred her to the Village Board that just approved the resolution allowing merchants to apply for overhanging signs. It  would be up the board to determine if long-existing signs can remain without owners seeking a permit.

Board members won’t meet Aug. 4 because there are no pending applications ready for action, but they got their first look at a subdivision application from James Olinkiewicz, who is seeking to subdivide a lot at 314 Center St. in order to build a two-apartment rental unit on the newly created lot. It will be up to the Zoning Board of Appeals to determine whether Mr. Olinkiewicz gets his subdivision, but if he does, the site plan for development of the new lot will be in the Planning Board’s purview.

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