by Andrew Getty
Along with the normal signs in weather patterns that allude to warmer and longer days, come other indications that our community is getting ready for summer.
Signs; lots of signs.
Not just the evening’s temperature or the foggy morning before the warm sunny day.
Not because all the marinas are busy prepping boats and launching them.
Not just because people are opening their summer home and cleaning up after the winter mess.
Not just because docks are going back in the water and canoes and kayaks start spotting the shorelines.
There are other signs that summer is near.
Last year the code office got blasted for doing our job. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the office was charged with administering the local law relative to signs.
Big, little, not-for-profit or private; signs are regulated by local law. Nearly 200 signs were removed from town, county or state roadways. From McKeever to Eagle Bay, to Big Moose… it didn’t matter.
Did we get them all? Probably not. Did we leave some because they were a not-for-profit? No.
Were some left alone because they were a church? No.
Did the office staff have any close ties to some of the organizations? You bet; really close, which tends to create an uncomfortable strain in personal relationships.
Did the Supervisor’s office receive any complaints? Oh yeah, plenty.
Sure, some signs are exempt from needing a sign permit; others are allowed without any over-sight, permit process or Planning Board intervention.
Community service organizations generally do not need any kind of permit to advertise a special event or fund raiser.
If a special event is coming up, put up all the signs you want, anywhere you want, as long as the signs are only on the property in which the event is held.
The Town’s local law (the zoning ordinance) Section 480-32.A.4 clearly states that no signs, except official traffic signs, may be placed within the right-of-way of ANY street or highway.
This paragraph continues to state that any exemptions to this may be subject to the Zoning Board of Appeals in accordance to variance procedures.
The intent of this law was to prevent the unregulated placement of any kind of sign up and down our roadways, thus preventing what some call “sign clutter.”
As much as the Town Supervisor, some Board members and this office, got an earful because of last year’s sign removal policy; there were a number of compliments received as well. Not everyone likes signs all over the place.
For any organization or individual who believes they were aggrieved by the enforcement policy of this office or that this office otherwise interpreted the zoning ordinance incorrectly, you may request an official interpretation of the zoning ordinance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Although many think that this belongs to the Town Board, it really does not; the power of interpretation is in the hands of the local ZBA.
The Town Board however, does have the power to change the local law.
Referring back to that section in the sign ordinance that mentions the potential exemption the ZBA may offer regarding the placement of signs in any roadway, here is the process:
• The organization or individual submits an application for an Area Variance to the ZBA.
• A public hearing is scheduled to hear the application and discuss its merits with the applicant and any other interested person from the public.
• The ZBA shall make a decision based on what is called ‘The Balancing Test.’
This ‘test’ has five different considerations.
1. Whether the benefit to the applicant can be achieved by any other means feasible to the applicant;
2. Is there an undesirable change to the neighborhood character or nearby properties;
3. Whether the request is substantial;
4. Whether the request will have adverse physical or environmental effects;
5. Whether the alleged difficulty is self-created.
The ZBA may approve, deny or approve with reasonable conditions.
If you want the local law changed, petition the Town Board to change it.
Or work within the limits of our local law and convince the ZBA to grant a variance that allows you to do something that is otherwise prohibited, such as putting signs along the road.
Like it or not, this is how our system works. Like it or not, the code office is charged with administering the local law.
This office will help anyone in the process should you decide to submit an application to the ZBA. In-fact, we actually try to be the applicant’s advocate, as much as law allows.