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Businesses left in the dark on LED signs

November 16, 2011

Photo by Kathleen McKiernan Old Mountain Lanes on Kingstown Road is one business hoping to replace its sign with an LED sign in its near future to advertise breakfast, lunch, dinner and bowling specials.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The four corners of the commercial highway zoning district will remain in the dark at least until February as the business community has to wait again to find out if they can use LED signs to brighten their future.

At Monday’s Town Council meeting, the town council voted to extend the deadline to amend the Zoning Ordinance’s prohibition on electronic changeable copy signs, putting off the decision on whether to allow businesses to use LED signs to advertise. Town Council President Ella Whaley suggested the decision be continued until the Feb. 23 meeting, giving the town staff and planning board more time to provide the council with more information on how the signs could be regulated and how much businesses could save.

This is the third time the council has extended the sunset provision and asked the planning board to review the use of LED signs, starting in Sept. 2010 when the council initially requested clarification of the ordinance.

At Monday’s public hearing, the Planning Board recommended the ban of flashing signs, feather type signs and electronic changeable copy signs, including the popular LED signs, citing their inconsistency with the character of Wakefield.

“The Planning Board notes the town’s Zoning Ordinance has long prohibited it. It’s consistent with the town’s historic position,” Director of Planning Vincent Murray said.

The ban specifically applies to the commercial highway zoning district from Dale Carlia to the Old Mountain Lanes to the Narragansett town line and Kingstown Road beyond the police station. Murray said about 65 businesses are in the 101 acre commercial highway district.

The Planning Board’s recommendation would not affect LED signs used at gas service stations and for businesses that use digital clocks for time and weather.

Though flashing signs or any illuminated sign which is not constant in intensity were also recommended for the ban, the LED signs sparked the most debate. The town has already grandfathered in the use of LED signs at the CVS on Kingstown Road and Wakefield Prescription. But after their installation, the town did not allow any more businesses to use the LED signs until it reviewed the Zoning Ordinance. These two businesses were not up for discussion Monday night. Because the town does not have control over zoning of the University of Rhode Island property, the RAM Center sign was off limits as well.

The Planning Board’s recommendation was met with resistance by the business community, who argued that LED signs address environmental and safety concerns.

For more information, pick up a copy of today's The Narragansett Times.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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