May 27, 2018
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Camden voters to consider ‘sandwich’ boards

By Tom Groening, BDN Staff

CAMDEN, Maine — A town committee that reviewed rules about business signs has recommended changes to the ordinance that would allow businesses to use sandwich boards in their doorways and on their buildings. Voters will be asked to approve the amendments to the sign ordinance at the polls on Nov. 6.

Last winter, the Select Board authorized the creation of a working group to review the ordinance, charging it with taking a particular look at the section addressing home occupation signs, Steve Wilson, the town’s code enforcement officer, said Wednesday.

Business owners had said the current ordinance was inflexible on some matters, such as prohibiting temporary signs advertising special sales. And some of the ordinance’s language was unclear, Wilson added, which also was addressed by the group.

The committee reported to the planning board, which hosted a public hearing on the recommended revisions earlier this year. Concerns were raised about some of the changes at that hearing, Wilson said, with downtown business owners advocating for consistency among the signs that would be allowed.

Further revisions were made, and those were presented to the Select Board, which hosted a public hearing on the amendments Tuesday night. The board voted to put the revisions before voters.

The recommendations include a provision that would allow downtown businesses to seek permits from the code office to use blackboard-type sandwich board signs, measuring no larger than 17 inches wide by 28 inches high, Wilson said. Messages can be written by hand on the signs and changed as needed.

Larger signs, measuring 2 feet by 3 feet, would be allowed for those with home occupations in the rural zones, provided they are placed on private property, he said.

Businesses in downtown zoning districts are allowed to have three signs in all, he said, and the sandwich board sign would be among the three allowed.

“Granted, it’s going to be a fair-weather sign,” Wilson said, and when winter weather makes the signs difficult to use, businesses can replace them with another sign, provided it meets other criteria in the ordinance. The sandwich boards can be attached to the shop or restaurant wall, he added, when appropriate.

The permitting part of the process will ensure pedestrian safety, he said.

“We don’t want people falling over these things,” Wilson said.

The committee worked diligently on the revisions, he said, and listened carefully to concerns raised during its meetings and during earlier hearings.

“We’ve had a lot of response,” Wilson said. He urged those with questions to contact his office.

Voters also will consider amendments to the nonconformance section of the ordinance on Nov. 6, he said. Both the sign ordinance and nonconformance documents are on the town’s homepage at The proposed changes are in red.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that sandwich board signs would be allowed on sidewalks and public ways. The signs only could be used on private property in downtown business districts, such as in recessed doorways or attached to a building.

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