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Greenport moves toward eliminating some sandwich board signs

Sandwich boards advertising specials, racks with clothing on display and tables for outdoor dining are becoming more and more prevalent on the streets of Main Street and Front Street in downtown Greenport.

But with the exception of one 24-by-42-inch sandwich board sign for each business, all of them would have to go under a proposed compromise offered by the Greenport Business Improvement District in responses to a request for suggestions from the village trustees.

Those suggestions came Thursday, when the BID board of directors offered a compromise that there be one 24-by-42-inch, sandwich board sign allowed per business, ideally a chalkboard with a natural wooden frame, and the placement of it should allow five feet of unencumbered walkway, according to Trustee Julia Robins, who is the trustee’s liaison to the BID.

“Other encumbrances such as tables, benches and clothing racks” would not be permitted, she said.

In its meeting Thursday, the village board discussed plans to take up the BID offer.

“I’ve noticed with the sandwich board signs, as you walk along Front Street, the sidewalk gets narrower and you can only really accommodate two people,” Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said. “As you get down toward lower Main, people start to walk in the roads, and part of that is because of the sandwich boards.”

The village code doesn’t specifically address sandwich board signs, but it does mention “signs” in a section on the clearing of sidewalks, and it says they shouldn’t “project over the sidewalk so as to interfere with the free passage of pedestrians over the whole width” of the sidewalk.

“The village reached out to us and asked for input or suggestions for an acceptable standard for sandwich boards,” BID president Rich Vandenburgh said in an interview Friday. “The sidewalks being as narrow as they are, pedestrian traffic gets obstructed. We’re trying to make sure that pedestrians visiting the shops are able to navigate the sidewalk without it being an obstacle course.”

He acknowledged that some store owners may like the proposal and others not.

At the June 22 Village Board meeting, Evan Gappelberg, who recently opened the Hampton Chocolate Factory on Main Street, made a case for allowing sandwich boards.

“Everybody in business has decided that these signs are good for business,” he said. “And when you drive around Long Island or you drive around the country, you see these signs. It’s a big business, and the reason is, is that it’s successful.  It works. It communicates to the customer.”

He added, “it’s hard to grab their attention with our little storefronts, so these signs actually do work. People come into our shop, and we’ve only been open since Memorial Day, and they literally are ordering what they see in these signs.”

Mayor George Hubbard said Thursday that the signs are getting “bigger and bigger.” He said the village board can vote to hold a public hearing in August, and then possibly vote on the issue in September.

But he said the village should enforce the proposed change as a “standard operating procedure” in the meantime.

“If they comply with this, we won’t issue notices, but if they go beyond this, we would,” Village Administrator Paul Pallas clarified.

“We’ll solidify how this works over the next two months,” Mr. Hubbard said.


[Photo credit: Tim Gannon]