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Henderson to consider revising proposed rules for signs

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HENDERSON — During a public hearing last month, business owners told the Town Council they’re opposed to a proposed zoning law that would compel them to use smaller signs, spurring the board to consider revising it.

The board will hold a work session at 7 p.m. Thursday to decide how to address criticism of proposed signage rules.

The proposed update of the law, which was last revised in August 2007, would decrease the maximum size allowed for free-standing signs in commercial districts from 32 to 16 square feet — half the size of a sheet of plywood.

The maximum size of commercial signs attached to buildings would decrease from 48 to 32 square feet in the agricultural district and from 32 to 24 square feet in the business residential district. Existing signs that don’t meet the criteria would have to conform to rules within seven years.

Committee members have said the rules were proposed for aesthetic reasons, with the goal of ensuring signage in the town stays in keeping with its unique character.

Those who voiced opposition to proposed signage rules during the Aug. 27 public hearing were David E. Cornell, co-owner of Cornell’s Marina; Ronald J. Ditch, owner of Ron Ditch & Sons fishing charter service; R. Donald Peters, fishing guide for Ron Ditch & Sons; Susan L. Grimshaw, owner of Cooper’s Landing Family Restaurant, and Lance M. Evans, executive director of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors.

Mr. Ditch, 79, said Tuesday the town’s proposed signage rules would affect two of the free-standing signs for his business, which includes lodging and a marina. He said a large sign advertising the fishing charter at Route 178 and Harbor Road has been up since the 1940s.

“I bought that property to put up the sign, and it has no value as a building lot,” Mr. Ditch said. “I would absolutely go to court with it if they came back and said that sign has to come down. There’s no justification to reduce the size of the signage, and I think it was a foolish proposition. I think there’s a good possibility the board will change” the rules.

Mr. Peters contended Tuesday that committee members did not present a compelling argument for proposing tighter signage requirements.

“According to the members I talked to, their explanation was that if you go up into Alexandria Bay there are a lot of billboards, and they don’t want Henderson Harbor to become another Alexandria Bay,” Mr. Peters said. “But the only thing this would accomplish if it were passed would be to force existing business owners to spend extra money on a sign that is less beneficial for the business; or their alternative would be to spend money to apply for a variance and beg the Zoning Board for approval.”

Mr. Peters, a seasonal resident of Henderson who also lives in North Carolina, said he is also opposed to a new rule in the law that would bar motor homes longer than 20 feet from being kept on waterfront property. He owns a 34-foot-long motor home that would be affected by the rule.

“I have a lot that I keep it on near the shore,” he said.

Gerald V. Tackley, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals who was a member of the committee that revised the law, said the proposed signage rules were hotly contested among members.

“The reasoning was for the aesthetics of the town — that was the only reason whatsoever,” Mr. Tackley said. Business owners “have seven years to comply with these rules, and they are all put on the same playing field. It’s not so much about the rural character as it is the quality of Henderson Harbor. We’re a nice hamlet community, and the majority of the (members) felt the reduction in signage would be appropriate.”

Mr. Evans, speaking on behalf of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors during the public hearing, said Tuesday that the committee’s proposed rules for temporary real estate signs would be detrimental to home sales. Rules would require signs not to exceed 4 square feet; currently, they are allowed to be up to 6 square feet.

“I think that six feet is reasonable, but I’m not sure four square feet is,” Mr. Evans said. “The committee came up with six square feet for political signs, and I would argue that real estate is just as important as politics. Our recommendation would be that they eliminate the language altogether.”

The proposed zoning law, which includes new sections on solar arrays and wind turbines, is available online at http://wdt.me/MtVSC6.

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