A-Frame signs getting attention in Brockport/ purchase of building for new village hall questioned

By on December 4, 2017

The Village of Brockport Code Review Committee is currently in the process of revising the village code regarding A-frame, or sandwich signs, which merchants set on the sidewalk to draw pedestrians to their businesses.

Currently, the signs are not allowed in the code, but Brockport Mayor Margaret Blackman says the new code will allow them with stipulations – such as weighing them down so they cannot blow over; bringing them in at night; and keeping them out of the right-of-way.

The committee will make their recommendations soon, Mayor Blackman says, “and then there will be a public hearing,” regarding the change.

Despite the current code, merchants in the village have used the A-frame signs for years in the downtown business district, and many were upset recently when the village began enforcing the current code which bans their use.

“There has been an increasing number of A-frame signs,” Mayor Blackman says regarding the recent enforcement, “it has been causing a problem with liability.”

She said the village felt it had to act, and Code Enforcement Officer David Miller had time to address the issue.

Mayor Blackman says she realizes the timing may not have been the greatest for downtown merchants, as Small Business Saturday occurred November 25.

Village trustees adopted a resolution allowing business owners the opportunity to apply for a temporary variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals for A-frame signs with an application fee of $50, giving them the ability to utilize the portable signs in advance of the enactment of the new Sign Law.  Merchants were also notified they had 10 days to obtain the variance before being cited for being in violation of the code.

The mayor says signs which hang from storefronts perpendicular to the sidewalk are not in question.  They are allowed under the village code – only the A-frame signs are an issue.

Josephine Matela, who owns the Red Bird Cafe and Gift Shoppe, says she was not happy when Code Enforcement Officer David Miller informed her she would have to apply for a variance in order to continue to use her A-frame sign.

Matela says she shouldn’t have to pay a fee to continue to use her sign. “They are punishing us, it’s not right,” she says.

In a letter to merchants identified as having a sign prohibited by village codes from Code Enforcement Officer Miller, he advises them that any person, firm or corporation who refuses to remove any sign in violation is subject to a fine of up to $500.

“Everybody is afraid,” Matela says, and adds she feels that she is being harassed.

Matela says when she first called the village regarding the issue, she was told about applying for the variance, but found the fee was $200.  The village board lowered the fee to $50 in their resolution.

“It’s a matter of principle,” Matela says, “things should stay as they are until the new code is enacted.”

Matela says she feels the A-frame signs and other embellishments (including flags) add a festive atmosphere to downtown, which is what shoppers and diners want to see when they visit.

“The village looks closed,” she said.

Matela is also unhappy regarding the recent purchase by the village of 127 Main Street for use as a new village office building.

She says she questions the need for the purchase and the transparency of the decision to do so because the village board called a special meeting with short advance notice to vote on the purchase.  Matela says the meeting occurred during the downtown Halloween Parade when it was difficult for residents to attend.

“This is not government in daylight,” Matela said.

The village board purchased the building for $250,000 with funds coming from its unassigned fund balance. Village leaders say the move is necessary due to the growth of the village court.

Matela calls the purchase fiscally irresponsible, particularly considering the village tax rate.

She said she feels it would have been better for the village to, “give the money back to village taxpayers in the form of a tax reduction.”

Mayor Margaret Blackman says the village did move quickly when it decided to purchase 127 Main Street, but that’s because trustees needed to act quickly when it was decided that purchasing a new village hall was the best way to address space issues at the current village hall at 49 State Street.

The village had looked at the property earlier in the summer, but decided to investigate the possibility of renovating space at the former Ryan’s supermarket at 73 North Main Street and renting it from the current owner.

It became clear that leasing would end up costing $100,000 more than purchasing property, Mayor Blackman said, so the village decided to take a second look at 127 Main.

“When we looked at it again, we realized two other potential buyers where preparing to put in offers, we called a special meeting at 5 p.m. (October 27) to put an offer in,” Mayor Blackman said.

Trustees approved the mayor spending up to $300,000 for the property, if there were competing bids.

The mayor has said the move will open up space at the current village hall – 49 State Street – in the codes office, where people will be able to wait and meet with the public defender while court is in session.

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