Sign stirs debate

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A sign advertising Giuseppe's Italian Pizzeria on town property the pizzeria paid to landscape has been the subject of debate among the Board of Mayor and Burgesses and the Beautification Committee. RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — As drivers enter the borough’s downtown from North Church Street, they are now greeted with an “N” landscaped in boxwood shrubs, surrounded by American flags and other plantings that will bloom in the spring, all under a two-by-four-foot sign.

“Giuseppe’s Italian Pizzeria,” the sign reads, with a phone number underneath.

Although the area was landscaped along the lines of the Beautification Committee’s Adopt-A-Spot program, which enlists sponsors to beautify a piece of the borough, the sign is more than twice as large as the program’s regulations allow. Other sponsors get an 18-by-24-inch sign that must include the committee’s logo.

The Giuseppe’s sign, which has stood for two months on borough land in front of the Tuttle House and the Senior Center, has angered some local business owners and spawned debate among members of the Board of Mayor and Burgesses.

The landscaping and the sign were not done as part of the Adopt-A-Spot program, said Linda Ramos, co-chairwoman of the Beautification Committee.

“Some of the town people who are interested in adopting a spot wanted to know why they couldn’t have the sign like Giuseppe’s had,” Ramos said. “I was unhappy to see that happen and that Adopt-A-Spot, in the beginning, was getting blamed for it.”

Jim Miele, 66, of 198 Maple St., a former member of the beautification group, designed the spot and got his friends, the owners of the pizzeria on New Haven Road, to pay for it. He had heard of Adopt-A-Spot and wanted to participate, but said he was not aware they had specific procedures for him to follow, other than getting the design approved by the Street Commission, which he did. The sign was never approved by the zoning enforcement officer, as zoning regulations require.

The street commission approved the location and the plantings, as long as they went with a “town-approved sign” that commissioners assumed would look similar to the red “Welcome to Naugatuck” signs, Director of Public Works James Stewart said.

“Nobody ever told me we had to go through the Beautification Committee to do what we did,” Miele said. “They gave me no specifications as to the size of the sign.”

Ramos said that was not true.

“Mr. Miele took it upon himself not to bother to follow the procedure,” Ramos said.

Burgess Robert Neth, who owns Connecticut Signcraft on Cherry Street, said he made the sign for $400. Neth also makes the Adopt-A-Spot signs, but said he was under the impression that the Giuseppe’s project was separate. Later, he made a hanging piece identifying the area as an Adopt-A-Spot site, language Neth said was a mistake.

“I told them we should put something there so people know you can’t just pop a sign on a location,” Neth said.

That piece has since been stolen, Neth and Miele said.

The Zoning Commission is looking at updating sign regulations, which do not specifically address signs on borough property, where they frequently appear to advertise events and political candidates, but not businesses.

“We haven’t faced this before,” Chairman Joseph Savarese said. “Are we opening up a Pandora’s box by saying if you have to allow one, you have to allow 50?”