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Planning Board Chair Wants “Police Support” Signs Addressed

Planning Board Chairman Patrick Kennelly wants his board to take another look at the year-old revised Zoning By-law section on signs to address how to allow lawn signs that say, "We Support Our Milford Police Officers." The Building Department this month sent out about 50 letters asking property owners with those signs and others deemed illegal under the Zoning By-laws to remove them.

In residentially zoned areas, "temporary" signs are allowed under the following conditions:

• One temporary sign – which cannot exceed six square feet in area or three feet in height – can be displayed at any time of year.

• Up to four temporary signs may be displayed in the election months of March, April, September, October and November.

• Signs advertising an event can't be displayed more than 45 days before that event and have to be removed within 72 hours after that event.

As the Planning Board's June 6 meeting came to an end, Kennelly brought up the removal letters, saying that – even though an article to revise that section of the Zoning By-laws was defeated at last month's Annual Town Meeting – the board should "get ahead" of the issue by seeing what it could do to revise the law to allow this particular sign.

Board member Joseph Calagione disagreed. "I think it was pretty clear at Town Meeting" that Town Meeting Members did not want to change the wording about signs, he said. The town cannot regulate what wording is on the signs, he reminded, since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling said laws governing signs must be content-neutral.

After the board meeting ended, Kennelly told the Town Crier that his personal view is that the "We Support Our Milford Police Officers" signs were no different than real estate agents' "For Sale" signs, which are allowed.

Erika Robertson, the town's Assistant Zoning Enforcement Officer, confirmed that her office sent "50 or so" letters out to property owners at addresses where different types of signs were found to be in violation of the Zoning By-laws. The letters quoted the particular section of the by-laws being enforced and asked owners to remove the signs in question, she explained.

The "We Support Our Milford Police Officers" signs would be allowed if they were deemed as "permanent," rather than "temporary" signs. She and Building Commission John Erickson are developing guidelines for what is needed to be considered a "permanent" sign, Robertson said.

Kennelly later provided additional comments about the "We Support Our Milford Police Officers" signs to the Town Crier: "As you know, I support the existing by-law, but now realize that the wording seems to be questionable in terms of enforcement. As you know, we are not in charge of sign enforcement relative to this by-law, or any other for that fact. What I see as I drive around is compliant to size and over all square footage corrugated plastic signs. As you know, the signs are by design content-neutral. Because of that, I believe that people showed have the right to exercise their freedoms of speech. In terms of establishing an event, I believe that the signs in question are doing just that because I do not read the context of what the sign reads.

"To have a sign affixed to someone's house to display legally may be the area that needs refinement. I have requested that the Sign By-law discussion be placed back on the agenda for discussion, and hope that the residents of Milford will provide input into this subject," he said


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