In Red Bank, Business District Signage Get a Look-Over

first_imgBy John BurtonRED BANK – Local legislation regulating business district signage is meeting resistance from the business community, and may prohibit some signs designed by the ordinance’s main supporter.The Borough Council at its Feb. 24 meeting introduced an ordinance that revises the long-standing one regulating signs in the business districts as well as the borough’s historic district, which includes much of the downtown commercial Special Improvement District, and meet the standards of the borough master plan, intending to protect the district.The proposed ordinance would regulate the size and scope of signs, as well as the maximum height they would be permitted on buildings, among other restrictions.Another provision of the ordinance is that it does not allow internally illuminated signs.The ordinance is the work of the council’s code enforcement committee, chaired by Republican Councilwoman Cindy Burnham, with Burnham and the committee having spent two and a half years and roughly $18,000, with most of the money going to pay a professional planner.Of the ordinance, Burnham said “We accomplished what we set out to do,” which was to revise the long-on-the-books ordinance and simplify it. “Maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction. But you can’t please all the people all the time.”Burnham a couple of weeks ago announced she had worked unilaterally with Red Bank Flavour, a former coalition of borough restaurant owners who worked to promote their businesses, for the businesses to pay for a series of signs that would direct visitors to downtown municipal parking lots. The signs, which Burnham said she designed, however, would be internally illuminated and lighted in the evenings, and hung from street side lampposts.Councilman Edward Zipprich, a Democrat, was critical of Burnham’s actions and pointed out that the signs would violate Burnham’s ordinance. While appreciating that businesses may feel the signs directing visitors would help local businesses – “We support that,” he said – Zipprich took Burnham to task for her actions.“Cindy, taking charge, getting somebody to buy these signs and telling everybody she can do whatever she wants to do,” Zipprich said, “that’s not proper protocol.”Zipprich added, “I think if we approve the signage to the parking in the downtown it should be compliant with how the ordinance reads and protect the historic district.”“He’s wrong,” Burnham countered. “We’re not talking about store signs; we’re talking about traffic control signs.” She believed these signs would be exempt from the ordinance restrictions as a public service.Burnham also accused Zipprich of “playing politics.”“Come on Ed,” she answered. Do the best thing for the town, what’s right for Red Bank.”Borough attorney Jean Cipriani, was on vacation this week and unavailable to untangle the legalities of the ordinance.Red Bank RiverCenter, the management and advocacy organization for the borough commercial Special Improvement District, has its own reservations with the ordinance. There were a few specific points that RiverCenter objected, including the prohibition of internally illuminated signs, said the organization’s executive director, James Scavone. But, “In general, the ordinance itself is just too overwhelming and very confusing,” and may pose too onerous for future businesses thinking of relocating to the borough, he added.Scavone is encouraging the governing body to again review the proposal, “to see if there is another way to simplify the ordinance.” He suggested Red Bank look at Princeton’s comparable ordinance, just about six pages (as opposed to Red Bank’s 11-page ordinance), and use it as a template.“We simplified it,” from where it started, Burnham maintained, charging that RiverCenter and businesses “want to come in and do whatever they want here.”Mayor Pasquale Menna, a Democrat, agreed with Scavone, believing, “It’s still too bureaucratic, too long, too confusing and to apply it would be extremely expensive.”On the other hand, Menna continued, he likes Burnham’s parking signs and believes businesses should be permitted to use the illuminated signs. “As far as I’m concerned, any advertising mechanism that is commonly recognized in the industry should be available for their use in order to remain competitive and to keep a viable downtown,” Menna said.The borough attorney is comparing this ordinance to Princeton’s and may make recommendations. The borough planning board will have to review it, as well, before it returns to the council for its consideration and vote, officials said.last_img

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