Sign Bylaw Changes Explained Prior to Special Town Meeting Vote

Submitted by Sign Bylaw Chair Jeff Cohen

Continuing the work that began in January 2012, the Sign Bylaw Committee will offer six more recommendations at Special Town Meeting on November 4 for revisions to the rules that govern signs in the town of Bedford. Several sign bylaw amendments were voted on at Annual Town Meeting last March; the following six—Articles 3 through 8—are the final recommendations being offered by this ad hoc Committee.

Sign Bylaw Committee Chair Jeff Cohen, along with the submitted text below that describes the amendments, writes:
“The committee was not intended from the outset to become a permanent Town committee and therefore, the Sign Bylaw Review Committee will be disbanding after 2013 Special Fall Town Meeting.

We believe we’ve accomplished a great deal to address the goals and objectives we established when we first met in January 2012 and will therefore disband. It’s been a pleasure to serve with my fellow committee members, to whom I wish to express my gratitude: Lisa Mustapich, Karen Kenney, Mark Siegenthaler, Carol Carlson, Ralph Zazula and Kevin Latady. I’d also like to thank Director of Code Enforcement, Chris Laskey and all other Town staff, individual residents, in particular, Jim O’Neil and local business owners who participated in the 22-month process.”

Article 3—General Bylaw Amendment—Miscellaneous and Article 5—General Bylaw Amendment—Sign Bylaw—Residential Zones are mostly housekeeping, coordination and minor tweaking of wording.

Article 4Reverse Channel Signs proposes to provide a clear definition in the Sign Bylaw for “Reverse-Channel Signs” a.k.a. halo-lit and/or backlit signs and to permit these signs in the Business, Commercial and Industrial zones.

The current Sign Bylaw does not include a definition for this type of sign. Wall signs at Stop & Shop, CVS and Cambridge Savings Bank are examples of Reverse-Channel Signs that were considered in developing the proposed definition and requirements, and for which the ZBA has granted Special Permits.

Article 6—Special Considerations proposes to codify the use of “Open-for-Business” flags being displayed by businesses. This may spark some discussion, but it is pretty straight-forward. Again, flags in the Historic District would require HDC review.

Article 7—Movable Freestanding Signs proposes to allow businesses, through ZBA-granting of a Special Permit, the ability to display a movable freestanding sign at their place of business.

The Selectmen granted a temporary Sign Bylaw exemption to run from July 2 until November 1, 2013, to allow businesses to test the waters and give residents a chance to look at the visual impact of these signs. Businesses and residents have provided valuable feedback that the committee considered very carefully in developing the recommended amendment and as a result, the committee has proposed mandatory conditions of approval, including the applicant’s agreeing to waive the grandfather rights on this movable sign if the Sign Bylaw becomes more restrictive in the future. Wire-framed signs that are staked into the ground are also prohibited.

The temporary exemption expires on November 1. If residents wish to weigh-in on whether these signs should be permitted in Town, they’ll have that opportunity at Special Town Meeting.

Article 8—Illumination proposes to lift the prohibition on internally illuminated signs, but only for signs in the Industrial zones in town.

The request for an illuminated sign would still go through the Special Permit process with the ZBA, and applicants will now be required to submit more substantive calculations to demonstrate that the sign complies with the Bylaw’s requirements. The permissible brightness of internally-illuminated signs would be reduced from 75 foot-lamberts (present maximum for all illuminated signs) to 50 foot-lamberts.

Similar to Article 7, there would be a mandatory condition of approval stipulating that the applicant would waive their grandfather rights to illuminate this sign internally if the Sign Bylaw becomes more restrictive in the future.

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Patricia Pellegrini
Patricia Pellegrini
8 years ago

In the past I have been asked to take a political candidate’s sign down because I placed it on my lawn too early. That’s OK, if that’s the law. However, it seems unfair that apparently no one has asked a resident to take a “We support our troops” sign down that has been on a lawn near the VA Hospital for years. Is that such an exception? Don’t we all support our troops? Don’t laws apply to everyone? Would someone who knows please print print an answer to this?

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