"32 square feet maximum in residential areas is crazy - strike that out," resident Dan Konowalow told the board. "This is not being business friendly. This is being resident unfriendly."
Town Officials realized Lansing needed a sign law when Craig Christopher erected a small LED sign in front of his Cayuga Signs business on Asbury Road almost a year ago. Bob and Caroline Rasmussen, whose Asbury Road home is near the sign, presented the Town Board with a petition to have the sign removed that was signed by 44 neighbors. The Rasmussens and some others have addressed the board several times since then, citing safety issues and saying the sign will negatively impact their property value.
In the course of responding to the petition in February 2013 the Board discovered that the Town has no sign law at all. A previous sign ordinance had been inadvertently repealed from Town law when Lansing zoning was updated in 2005. In the mistaken belief that there was an active ordinance the Town had been issuing permits.
In May the Town Board was unable to pass a proposed moratorium on new signs that was designed to give officials time to craft a law. In the interim there has been no law at all.
Caroline Rasmussen objected to the proposed law on many grounds, including that it has no connection to zoning law, allows large lighted signs, grandfathers current signs rather than enforcing a period during which existing signs must be brought into compliance with the new law. She urged the board to redraft the law according to the old ordinance.
Park Outdoor Advertising's Paul Simonet asked for edits to portions of the law that would impact billboards in the town. While he said his company is not planning expanding billboards in Lansing, he said the company wants to be able to continue to service their existing signs.
"I think it's an honest attempt to have some jurisdiction over signs," he said. "By excluding off-premise signs from the definition of a non-conforming sign we're precluded from doing even the simplest of service. I don't think that was your intention."
The 14 page proposed law lays out procedures for permitting and sets parameters for the size, shapes and kinds of signs allowed. Tourist way-finding signs, construction project and real estate 'for sale' signs and political yard signs are among types that are exempt from the law. Political signs are restricted to 32 square feet. Signs in commercial and agricultural sign districts are limited to 48 square feet.
The greatest objections were to a 32 square foot limit on signs in residential neighborhoods. Resident Ted Laux brought a 32 square feet sign to demonstrate to the Town Board that a sign that big in a residential neighborhood would be unacceptable.
"I am concerned by the sign ordinance in the sense of the sizes of the signs," said Laux. "Some of them seem rather large, especially for residential areas. Some commercial signs can be as large as 32 square feet. In some cases signs can be even larger. If you're on a small lot you're living next to neighbors that are close together, that's a pretty big sign to have right in front of somebody's house."
Councilman Ed LaVigne said that residents' comments brought to light changes the board should seriously consider before passing the law.
"I was sensitized to things that I was not aware of," he said. "This is so big that in your world this works, but in somebody else's world it's different. We're about 90% there. We've been plugging away at this. That's what communities do, they compromise. I think we should take a step back and tweak it a little bit."
But LaVigne added that anyone with further input should get it to the board immediately, because it has been a long time since the law was proposed and it is time to pass something.
"At some point we're going to have to make this thing final," he said. "Then from there we'll make adjustments down the road if they're appropriate. We need emails, or you can approach one of our board members to share concerns and if you don't want your name out there, that's OK. But any concerns need to be brought up now."
The board did pass an environmental review, which Miller said would still apply to a revised sign law if they reduce the allowed sign sizes. Town Attorney Guy Krogh said a new public hearing may be needed if the changes to the proposed law are substantial. But he said that if the changes are minor it would not be required.
"We have no sign law right now, and we also have no moratorium," Miller said. "That means if somebody wants to put up a one hundred square foot sign somewhere... oh well. So we need to move along with this as a protection, and also realize this can be amended down the road if we find things aren't as they should be."
Miller said revisions to the proposed law will be on the agenda for a working meeting at the beginning of February.