During the board’s Monday, Aug. 7 meeting, Damariscotta Planning Board member Shari Sage proposed an amendment to the town’s sign ordinance that would prohibit the use of “open-face LED signage, changeable or static” within Damariscotta.
Sage made a similar pitch about banning the use of certain electronic signs, as well as the use of graffiti on commercial signage, during the board’s July 10 meeting, receiving mixed reactions from the board. Fellow board member Wilder Hunt said Sage’s proposal was “too broad.”
At the Aug. 7 meeting, Sage stepped down from her seat on the planning board to present her proposal as a resident. First alternate Dana Orenstein became the fifth member of the board, despite protests from Sage that Orenstein might have a conflict of interest due to her husband’s opinion on a commercial development moratorium.
Ronn Orenstein, Dana Orenstein’s husband, was one of three selectmen to speak against a moratorium on commercial development during the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen’s meeting Aug. 1.
Orenstein said, and the board agreed, that the opinions of her husband would not influence her decisions as a planning board member, and the meeting continued.
Sage did not give examples of what signs she was referring to besides confirming to Town Planner Tony Dater that the ban would include signs in which “you can see the bulb.”
Any existing “LED open-face signage” outside the downtown would be required to adhere to new hours of operation and lumen output restrictions, and there would be no opportunity to enlarge the sign’s “area of illumination” in the future, according to Sage’s proposal.
The planning board’s approval of a business’s sign would not be transferable to a new sign, and significant alteration, relocation, removal, or reassignment to another owner would revoke the sign’s approval.
Sage listed numerous reasons for her proposal, including concern for wildlife and residents in areas where the signs are allowed, glare and distraction from the signs, and preserving “the tone of the town.”
Sage expressed concern that if the matter isn’t addressed quickly, more signs will appear and be considered grandfathered if the ordinance is changed in the future.
In response, Hunt listed off all the electronic, changeable signs in Damariscotta, from Lincoln Theater and the Damariscotta Baptist Church to Damariscotta Hardware and the Damariscotta Fire Department, all of which are institutions with many years of history in the town.
“Now tell me what Damariscotta is and what it isn’t,” Hunt said.
Planning board member Adam Maltese said he feels the conversation is “perfectly valid,” but wants voters to decide the issue.
At the end of the discussion, Eaton told Sage she should bring her concerns to the selectmen as a resident. The planning board did not vote to recommend that the selectmen take action on the request.