Planning Board Begins Revision of Ossipee Sign Ordinance

Ossipee — November 24, 2010 — For the first time since it was adopted in 1982, Ossipee’s sign ordinance is getting an overhaul. Asked by selectmen for help in updating the ordinance, the planning board used their meeting Nov. 17 to discuss the proposed changes that will be brought to town meeting voters in March.

Two members of the board, Bob Gillette and Ski Kwiatowski met, researched and came up with proposed changes and reviewed their suggestions with the full board. They propose four significant changes and a number of minor housekeeping amendments to “improve clarity and enforcement of the ordinance” and stated none of the changes would impose added cost or inconvenience to any Ossipee business.

Currently, the maximum allowed sign size is 256 square feet which could change to a maximum allowed size of 30 square feet. The limit would accommodate large signs like those at Hannaford and Tractor Supply but would prevent further construction of billboards.

Reducing the maximum sign height from 30 feet to 15 feet, Gillette and Kwiatowski said in a letter to the board, prevents more signs like the only one that has reached the 30-foot limit since the ordinance was adopted 28 years ago – the Family Dollar/Tractor Supply sign at Routes 16 and 28.

“The sign has been subject of complaints for its overwhelming size. Signs of this height might be appropriate along interstate highways, but they are completely out-of-proportion to a two-lane roadway, nearby buildings and the general environment of a rural setting,” their letter says.

The third major change would be to create a new category in the ordinance for temporary public-activity and home-business signs that are limited in size and location but require no permit or fee. This category would permit but “set reasonable limitations on public-event signs like church suppers, yard sales…” and would also deal with small business signs that are popping up all along Ossipee roadways such as firewood-for-sale and septic design service signs.

The final major change is to regulate the lighting of signs to conform to the town’s zoning ordinance protection of dark skies. The new ordinance would require all new externally lit signs to be down-lit from the top to prevent light pollution and roadway glare.

The housekeeping changes in the proposal are mostly wording changes but also include an application fee for permanent signs that would rise from $25 to $50 and provide exemptions, to include signs on vehicles, political signs, signs installed by NH Department of Transportation and signs identifying residential property, Another change would allow the selectmen to designate an agent (such as the zoning enforcement officer) to enforce the ordinance. Currently, the zoning officer can issue sign permits but the selectmen are the enforcers of the ordinance.

After much discussion at the Nov. 17 meeting, Gillette and Kwiatowski were asked to address the issue of large portable signs on wheels that are left out year-round and the message on them updated as the business owner decides. There are several in Ossipee and Planning Board Chairman Bill Grover said the goal should be to encourage businesses to make these sign boards part of their permanent signage by building a structure to set the sign in.

The Board got about halfway through review of the proposed ordinance and will finalize their changes at the Nov. 30 meeting at Ossipee Town Hall. They also plan to finalize the Hawkers and Peddlars and Water Resource Ordinances. The public is welcome to attend the 7 p.m. meeting. Once the proposed ordinances are ready, they will go to the selectmen, town attorney, and finally to the voters for approval on the March town ballot.

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