Published in the November 21, 2018 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — A program allowing local merchants to place A-frame signs on the sidewalk to promote shopping locally has has been expanded and extended through 2019.
In August 2017, the Board of Selectmen approved a controlled, limited pilot program that would allow for 50 chalk board, wooden A-frame signs to be placed at brick and mortar Wakefield businesses in the shopping/dining districts of Main Street, Albion Street and Greenwood.
The original program, called “Experience Wakefield,” was a joint project of Wakefield Main Streets, The Cooperative Bank, The Savings Bank and the Wakefield Merchants group. It was financially supported by donations from the Co-op Bank and The Savings Bank. The total budget for the project was $5,461.
The original plan was for the program to run from Sept. 2 to Nov. 25, 2017, with the signs being deployed on Saturdays only. At the end of the pilot program, the Board of Selectmen voted to extend the program into 2018.
Last week, the Town Council expanded and extended the program through 2019. Merchants in the “business,” “limited business” and “neighborhood business” districts will be allowed to use a specific size and type of A-frame sign on the sidewalk in front of their stores during hours that they are open.
The signs can be two-sided but no larger than 26×40 inches. The signs must be within the facade frontage of the business, cannot impede pedestrian traffic and the sidewalk must remain handicap accessible. There is no fee, but each sign must be registered with the DPW. The business registering the sign will receive a sticker to attach to the sign.
Town Councilor Paul DiNocco initially moved to have the A-frame sign program made permanent. He said that the businesses to this point have been using them as they should and there have been no complaints. He said that Town Council Thomas Mullen, Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio and the DPW had all reviewed the updated rules and regulations.
Maio told the Town Council that he had met with merchants and some of them said that using the signs during the pilot program had substantially helped their businesses. Maio added that the merchants also asked for some flexibility within the requirements for uniformity to allow for some creativity.
Maio said that the regulations require the merchant to agree to hold the town harmless for any property damage or personal injury that results from the use of the sign.
Town Councilor Julie Smith-Galvin asked whether there was an existing rule prohibiting the use of such portable signs in Wakefield. Town Counsel Thomas Mullen said that there was, but it only applied to private property. The Town Council, he said, has the authority to allow them on the public sidewalks, such as in this case.
Town Councilor Edward Dombroski said that he supported the program, but given the current efforts underway to revitalize the downtown, he was leery of authorizing the use of A-frame signs on a permanent basis. He suggested extending it through 2019, with the intention of re-evaluating it on Jan. 1, 2020.
The Town Council approved the “Rules and Regulations Regarding Portable Signs in the Public Way” to be effective through 2019.