ELLSWORTH – After languishing in limbo for months, an issue of downtown sidewalk signs seems to be headed in a different direction: toward the City Council.
Six downtown businesses have been told by code enforcement officer John Dunn that they are illegally displaying sandwich-board style signs on city sidewalks and that the signs should be removed.
The businesses, in turn, have approached the city’s appeals board to repeal Dunn’s order.
Dunn said Wednesday that none of the businesses – Union River Gallery, The Old Creamery Antique Mall, Riverside Cafe, State Street Market, Jalysa’s Closet, and Shoe Gazer – was represented at the Tuesday night appeals board meeting. All the appeals were tabled until an undetermined date, he said.
Dunn said Ellsworth attorney Peter Roy, hired to represent Union River Gallery on the issue, has sent him a copy of changes Roy is proposing to the city’s sign ordinance. Whether the appeals board ever hears arguments in the dispute depends on what action the council takes on Roy’s proposal, Dunn said.
“Ultimately, it’s their call,” the code enforcement officer said of the council members.
The council is expected to be presented with the proposed changes at its September meeting, Dunn said. The matter likely will be sent to the planning board and to the city’s planning staff for recommendations before the council acts on the proposed changes, he said.
Roy’s proposal would allow businesses in the downtown area to display one sign that is 2 feet wide and 4 feet high on city sidewalks between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., according to a draft on file at Dunn’s office. Each sign would have to be displayed within 300 feet of the business for which it gives directions and would not be allowed to impede pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk.
Downtown businesses currently are allowed on-premises signs only, according to Dunn. Business signs are not allowed on city or state property.
Dunn said he is opposed to the changes proposed by Roy.
“They’re getting to be a nuisance, as far as I’m concerned,” Dunn said of the sidewalk signs.
The board’s decision Tuesday to table the appeals marks the fourth time they have been tabled by the board in the past seven months.
In February, when the appeals were first brought before the board, the appeals were tabled because Dunn had been hospitalized with a broken hip and could not attend the meeting. In April, the appeals were tabled again because Dunn only had spoken to the businesses about their signs and had not given anyone written citations explaining his removal order.
The appeals were tabled last month because not enough board members were at the meeting for a quorum.