NAUGATUCK — Controversy over a sign on borough land across from the Tuttle House and Senior Center has spurred the Zoning Commission to consider new regulations that would standardize signs on town property.
The two-by-four-foot sign for “Giuseppe’s Italian Pizzeria” was part of an effort led by former Beautification Committee member Jim Miele and paid for by the pizzeria to spruce up the spot. It sits atop a small garden bed with the letter ‘N’ in boxwood shrubs.
The sign in question is one of many on a plot on North Church Street that greets drivers as they enter the borough. The signs range in size from small memorials from the Garden Club to a large billboard displaying the logos of Naugatuck’s civic organizations to temporary signs promoting upcoming events. However, Giuseppe’s is the only sign advertising a business.
According to Zoning Enforcement Officer Steve Macary, other businesses have been calling, asking if they can also put a sign on the plot and some people have complained that the sign advertises on town property.
“If Giuseppe’s came to me with that sign, I would have told him flat out no. My personal opinion is that it should be taken down. … It’s just not fair to other merchants,” Macary said.
According to section 27.3.1 of the zoning regulations, businesses cannot put a sign anywhere other than their own property. All advertising signs must be approved by the zoning enforcement officer.
Miele got approval for the plot from the Street Commission, but never came before the zoning enforcement officer for approval of the sign. Neither did the Beautification Committee, according to officials.
The Beautification Committee, which falls under the auspices of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, has a list of plots up for adoption. Sponsors must apply for an area to landscape and keep clean, and can obtain a sign to designate their spot. The program’s signs are 18-by-24 inches and include the committee’s logo with the sponsor’s name beneath.
Zoning Commission members felt this type of sign, which emphasizes the beautification message, was more appropriate that what they view as an advertisement for the pizzeria.
Although the program was discussed with the Board of Mayor and Burgesses and various other town committees, no one thought to ask the Zoning Commission about the regulations, according to Macary.
“There was a lot of animosity between Mr. Miele and the people on the Beautification Committee because of what happened. However, Mr. Miele did follow the rules,” said Zoning Chair Joseph Savarese.
Although the sign is technically illegal, Savarese said he didn’t want to penalize people who acted in good faith for what they believed to be the betterment of the town. Giuseppe’s invested $400 to get the sign from Connecticut Signcraft on Cherry Street. The same company makes the adopt-a-spot signs.
Saverese proposed that all interested parties, including the Beautification Committee, Miele, the Garden Club, NEDC CEO David Prendergast, and Giuseppe’s should get together with the Board of Mayor and Burgesses to coordinate efforts going forward.
“There was some friction there and we need to tighten the regulations and examine what we’re doing with this type of regulation,” Savarese said.
Commissioner Sally Brouillet said all signs currently on town property should go through zoning to get permission, even if it’s retroactive.
“You can’t have everyone doing whatever they want no matter what their intentions were,” Brouillet said.
Commissioner Diana Raczkowski said new regulations should be simple to follow, but specify that adopt-a-spot and similar programs emphasize a beautification message rather than an advertisement.
Saverese said he wanted to support beautification but that the town needs a uniformed plan for signage.
“This is no way a reference to trying to hinder the beautification project,” Saverese said.