Weeks after real estate organizations in New Canaan abandoned the widely discussed effort, the town’s legislative body is looking into what it might do to create a ban, at least temporarily, on ‘For Sale’ signs here.
Town Councilman Steve Karl said that members of a committee he helps lead will meet with the chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission to study how Greenwich accomplished its own ban “because if we want to get this thing going, we are going to have to mirror what Greenwich did.”
“And it is sort of a halfway agreement between the real estate offices and with the town,” said Karl, co-chair of the Council’s Bylaws and Ordinances Committee.
Saying prospective homebuyers identify properties online and that ridding New Canaan of hundreds of ‘For Sale’ signs would improve the town’s appearance, the New Canaan Board of Realtors, with support from the New Canaan Multiple Listing Service, announced in June that a six-month “trial ban” would start in July. But before the month was out, the plan was scrapped. Officials said the turnaround came following talks with the National and State Associations of Realtors.
At the Town Council’s most recent meeting, held July 18 at Town Hall, Chairman John Engel asked Karl whether a new effort to realize a ban was “on the burner” and he replied that it was.
Asked about it, Karl said that even with a re-worded ordinance or regulation, there likely would need to be wide agreement among real estate professionals to effective rid New Canaan of the pervasive signs (there are hundreds of residential properties on the market).
It isn’t clear whether the matter is best addressed in New Canaan through an ordinance or a zoning regulation. Though the Town Code does include sections on signs, that governing document appears to address matters such as traffic control, parking and public safety rather than real estate.
As it is, New Canaan’s zoning regulations appear to be very similar to Greenwich’s when it comes to real estate signs.
Specifically, the New Canaan Zoning Regulations allow, as-of-right, one 3-by-3-foot real estate sign per lot (see page 129 here). No sign may have a company logo, under the regulations.
In Greenwich, the local regulations allow for one 3-by-3-foot real estate on each street frontage, without a permit (see page 16-2 here). Additionally, under the Greenwich regulations, “All signs that name, advertise or direct attention to a business, product, service or other commercial activity offered or existing elsewhere than on the premises where such sign is displayed are expressly prohibited in residential zones.”
Officials in Greenwich have said that it’s OK to post a three-foot-square sign that simply says ‘For Sale’ with a phone number, though company names or logos are not allowed.
It isn’t clear just what would happen if, say, a new real estate office opened in Greenwich and decided to put signs on all properties for sale, Karl said, though “one of the things Greenwich is very good at is they work together as a real estate community and have a gentlemen’s handshake that they do not use those signs.”
“That is the whole thing about the way this would work, it’s one thing to sort of reword the ordinance and another to have all the agents in town, based on the wording, to decide not to have those signs,” Karl said. “I don’t know that we can legislate ‘no signs.’ I think there has to be a fresh look so we tighten up the language and as a community, get together and say, based on this new language, let’s try to eliminate the signs at least for six months to a year.”