RED BANK: SIGN LAW FLICKERS BACK TO LIFE

rb signs 061214 2A proposed ordinance to regulate signage is still too complex, officials say. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD
HOT-TOPIC_03

After more than two years of review and tweaking, a proposed change to Red Bank’s signage law is still too complicated, according to… well, nearly everyone who’s looked at it.

“Fourteen pages of regulations with three pages of tables does not help simplify what’s allowed and not allowed,” Jim Scavone, executive director of the downtown promotion agency Red Bank RiverCenter, told the borough council two weeks ago.

His comments have since been widely echoed. Planning board member Linda Cohen, who owns Eye Design on Broad Street, expressed concern that prospective business tenants would get one look at the document and decide to set up shop elsewhere.

Still, the planning board unanimously agreed Monday night that the proposed changes did not conflict with the town’s Master Plan, and kicked it back to the council with the message to “keep tweaking,” even if the amendments become law.After an enforcement crackdown that generated considerable anger in the business community almost two years ago, borough code enforcers were told to hold off on issuing violation notices while the council attempted to clarify rules that Mayor Pasquale Menna said had grown “Byzantine” over time.

The upshot is that there’s no enforcement underway, said Administrator Stanley Sickels, and, as a result, numerous examples of retailers taking advantage of the situation, some nearly covering windows where a maximum 15 percent coverage is allowed.

Meantime, an attempt by the council’s code enforcement committee, now led by Councilwoman Cindy Burnham, to simplify the ordinance was underway. Burnham delivered the proposed amended version of the law — several laws, actually — two weeks ago, and heard praise for the effort. But both Menna and Scavone had reservations.

It’s not as neat and tidy as ordinances in other bustling small towns — most notably, Princeton, which has somehow managed to boil its sign rules down to a tidy three-page document, said Menna.

“A lot of smart people live in Princeton,” he quipped Monday.

Business owners want to be able to quickly understand the law and install standard signage without having to go through the hassle of obtaining a variance, Scavone said.

Burnham, complaining about “foot dragging,” urged the planning board to move ahead on the amendments as written, rather than try to tackle the job of tweaking the document. She also said the town had paid engineering firm T&M Associates $18,000 for work on the changes, “and I will not stand to spend any more.”

With the planning board’s seal of approval, the amendment, which was formally introduced two weeks ago, now goes back to the council for possible further change and adoption. The matter is not listed, however, on the draft agenda for the governing body’s meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.

The existing ordinance is here. Here it is as a Word document: RB Sign ordinance (current)

Here’s the proposed ordinance, along with three attachments:RB 2016-03, RB 2016-03 Sched A, RB 2016-03 Sched B, RB 2016-03 Sched C

Here’s the Princeton ordinance (the relevant section begins near the bottom of the first page): Princeton sign ordinance 030816