Northborough – “You need to help them. You as a board need to help them.”
The words of small business owner John Fouracre seemed to echo the consensus of those gathered at the Northborough Planning Board meeting on March 5, where the board heard residents and fellow business owners express their concerns to a proposed change in the zoning by-laws that would limit the way businesses can use temporary signage in town.
Fouracre, owner of Unisign, a commercial sign company located on 89 West Main St. said that the proposed new restrictions to temporary signs usage will make it tougher for small businesses to survive.
“95 percent of the businesses in this town have been hurt deeply by the new mall that was put up in Northborough,” Fouracre said, speaking of Northborough Crossing, the 600,000plus square foot shopping center that was opened in the town in 2011. “Everybody in this community (that) has been drawn to that mall have left the people they used to do business with, and that's a sad thing.”
Among the proposed amendments to the zoning by-laws regarding temporary signs is a requirement that the signage remain located on the business property, and not on public ways such as sidewalks. Businesses would also be required to remove their temporary signs each day after business hours.
“What can I do?” asked Susan Whitney, a business owner on Blake Street who uses temporary signs near the roadway since her building is so far back from the road. “When you'se on the main road, you are visible with traffic. I's not visible I's kind of confused as to what I can do to promote my business.”
The Planning Board recommended on a 3-1 vote that the temporary signs article should not be placed on the warrant for Annual Town Meeting – which takes place on April 22 – so that further discussion of the article can ensue. Ultimately, the Board of Selectmen will decide which articles will be placed on the warrant when it closes it during its Monday, March 11 meeting.
“I think there is some need to modify the regulations around this kind of signage,” Planning Board Chairman Rick Leif said. “I just don's know if we'se spent enough time and gone through it enough to do it the right way.”
Planning Board member George Pember said he supported the article as is and thinks it should go before Town Meeting.
“I's comfortable with it,” Pember said. “If you'se going to advertise more than once a week, then I think you need to get a permanent sign. Otherwise, there is no such thing as permanent or temporary.”
The Planning Board also voted unanimously to recommend an additional amendment which would allow for the use of off-site locations for open house signs during the day of an open house, something that the Board of Selectmen does not support.
“We want to be known as a place where you can sell property,” Leif said. “If you'se a prospective home-buyer, you's like to have the ability to see where open houses are, and so I think it does benefit the town.”