By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
If Red Bank businesses are allowed to put sandwich board signs on their sidewalks this year, it won’t happen with the support of the borough’s planning board.
Rejecting, by a 4-1 vote, a recent proposal by the council to revive an old ordinance that permitted the signs outside stores and restaurants boroughwide, board members said the move is in conflict with the objectives of the town’s master plan and would impede pedestrian traffic and accessibility.
“I don’t think it really conforms to our master plan, and I think it would be more of a public hazard than public good,” acting chairman Guy Maratta said.
The council has the power to pass the ordinance anyway if there is a majority vote of its full, six-person membership, meaning it would take four votes in favor. It’s a move that planning board members thought likely, given that only one council member, Sharon Lee, voted against it last month.
“We very well could see the council override it,” Maratta said of the board decision.
Maratta, recalling the days when the A-frame promotional signs were allowed on sidewalks nearly 20 years ago said they posed a problem for pedestrians, who often had to step onto the street to get around them.
“I remember carriages people couldn’t walk with carriages,” he said. “I think they’re dangerous.”
The signs also don’t fit into certain areas of town, especially along Broad Street, which is a historic district, board members said.
Lee, who also serves on the planning board, said the experiment has already been tried in Red Bank, and to do it again would be “foolhardy.” She also said there are parts of town that are more like obstacle courses than pathways.
“I do understand the needs of the business community and their frustrations,” she said, “but we do have a bit of a clutter problem on the streets.”
The ordinance was written so that the signs would be permitted under a test run expiring at the end of the year, followed by an assessment of whether they helped steer traffic to businesses. But “we’ve walked this path” once before, a skeptical Lee said.
Lou DiMento, who voted in favor of the ordinance, said an OK from the planning board would show support and trust for RiverCenter, which proposed the idea to the council months ago in an effort to generate more foot traffic.
“RiverCenter thinks it’s going to help. I think that’s important,” he said. “I trust the council and RiverCenter to do what’s best for the businesses. I’m not going to stand in the way.”
The council may take action on the ordinance at its next meeting, scheduled for 6:30p Monday at borough hall.