‘It’s on the Horizon’: Town Council To Look at New Restrictions on Real Estate Signs

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Members of New Canaan’s legislative body said last week that the town is still looking at a proposed trial period banning real estate signs so that residents can have good first-hand information prior to deciding whether they want a permanent ban.

The new language in New Canaan’s ordinances or Zoning Regulations could be wrapped into an updated policy that covers other types of commercial signs, such as for home services, members of the Town Council said at their June 19 meeting.

During a future trial period, locals would be able to compare what New Canaan looks like with ‘for sale’ signs and without them “and the public can weigh in and say which they like better,” Councilman Steve Karl said at the elected body’s meeting, held in Town Hall.

“What we are talking about so far would be a temporary experiment,” he said.

Co-Chair of the Council’s Bylaws and Ordinances Committee, Karl said the group is seeking feedback from local Realtors, too.

Town Council Chairman John Engel prompted the discussion, asking whether the real estate sign question might be taken up next by the Committee, which has focused on matters such as blight and plastic bags in recent months.

Engel said that the town “can afford to be creative” in writing the rules regarding signs, citing a case on Greenley Road where a “for sale by broker” sign was about the size of a half-sheet of paper.

“I would have no objection to that because personally it was not dominating the landscape and many signs can dominate the landscape, so that is a bar we can move,” he said. “So perhaps if we are not comfortable ‘banning’ something outright,” the town could modify an existing policy.

Karl said members of the Committee have looked at how other towns handle the signs and that Greenwich may be a good model.

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 sign 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. 

Karl asked fellow Councilmen whether they’re hearing complaints in the community about the prevalence of real estate signs. Penny Young said yes.

“I think it’s noticed,” she said. “My husband uses Uber a lot and he said when he comes home on the Merritt Parkway and up Weed Street you get about a third of the way up Weed Street and then the Uber driver is always like ‘Oh my god, what is going on in your town?’ So it is noticed.”

Committee members said last fall that they’d make a recommendation to the full Town Council and, following public hearings, to the Planning & Zoning Commission, with additional hearings to be held there. That formal recommendation has not yet materialized, as the Committee has been tackling other issues, including ordinances on blight and plastic bags.

Realtors in New Canaan first broached the possibility of a “ban” on real estate signs one year ago, saying they were superfluous and created new problems for the local market. That effort never got off the ground, however, following directives that came down from a national Realtor association, and municipal officials took up the matter in July.

Karl said the Committee has met once regarding the real estate signs “and we have been struggling with that one ,so we will continue to struggle with it.”

“It’s on the horizon,” he said.

2 thoughts on “‘It’s on the Horizon’: Town Council To Look at New Restrictions on Real Estate Signs

  1. Speaking of signs, I thought there were restrictions on advertising signs in Town parks. For at least the past week there are advertising banners hanging around the main softball field in Waveny Park. This contributes to Waveny, with its many lighted fields, spreading artificial grass and more and more pavement, drip, drip, drip, becoming like a city facility.

  2. While it is interesting to hear the Town is struggling to better understand the impact of “For Sale” signs, people selling homes have rights to advertise their property for sale as well. People buy homes because they want to live in our community and “For Sale” signs are critical to knowing what is on the market.

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