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Real estate agents concerned over proposed sign regulations

November 25, 2009
Dozens of real estate agents attended the Board of Selectmen meeting last Wednesday in hopes of changing the proposed policy on regulating commercial signs in town rights-of-way.

Real estate agents said 14 days to post a sign is not nearly enough to conduct a business or sell a house. Although the selectmen attempted to ease the crowd and explained that this policy was not targeting the realm of real estate, many still felt strongly about their stance.

The selectmen have also stated that a sign cannot be installed until it is authorized by the board, meaning an individual would have to reissue their signs every two weeks, which could mean a time-consuming problem on both ends of the spectrum.

Mark French of a Tilton real estate agency stood in front of the board and said although he was not a resident, he did not see why signs have become such an issue.

"It seems like you repeatedly have to ask for permission to re-use signs. That's hard when you're trying to sell a house. It seems pretty penal to me."

Town Administrator Scott Dunn clarified that the a $275 fine for disobeying procedures would only be relevant in the most severe of cases, a matter that would have to be taken to court. Dunn described this occurrence as "rare."

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Gus Benavides explained that signage has been an ongoing problem in the town. He said that signs are being posted on trees and telephone poles without permission, and that they are congested and unsightly in town rights-of-way by intersections.

"We are all just a little perplexed by this," said resident and Coldwell Banker Judy McShane, who was not in favor of limiting directional signs to one alone under regulations.

She explained her company assigns a specific person to signage tasks and makes sure their signs are maintained and taken down in a timely matter.

"Fourteen days is ludicrous when you're trying to conduct a business. I get a lot of out-of-staters replying to these signs. It is unfair to sellers. We would like you to give us some consideration. We are looking for a better solution," said McShane.

McShane said that real estate companies could compromise and would be willing to work with the town in designing one generic sign to use around the town. She added that none of her employees have ever abused their privileges or posted signs on trees and poles.

John Goodhue of Roche Realty said he agreed with what the selectmen were trying to achieve with their proposed policy, but he had a few of his own points to make.

"There are a couple things that concern me. I agree there should be a limit on the signs. Permission should be 90 days. Fourteen days is a little cumbersome, although I agree with what you are trying to do. Make it worthwhile to come in and get your permission," said Goodhue.

He said he is not always in favor of using directional signs and agreed that they should be controlled as well, although some agents argued that their client's houses would be too difficult to find without more than one directional. Goodhue added that hundreds of signs make it appear as though the entire town is for sale, something the agents do not want to evoke either.

"I think the Lakes Region Board of Realtors would be willing to work with you selectmen. I think middle ground can be reached," said Realtor Mike Keel. "I think we can accomplish what we are trying to accomplish, but we also want to represent our clients."

Michele Engel, president of the Lakes Region Board of Realtors, spoke for real estate agents who could not attend the meeting, and agreed that 14 days is not enough time to reissue signs. She found some other flaws in the policy as well.

She noted that in the policy it states that the town has the right to confiscate or destroy signs in violation of the town right-of-way. Engel asked why the real estate signs in particular could not be stored somewhere rather then destroyed. She said companies pay a large sum for their own signs.

Engel told the board that the town could pick a certain look or certain "uniformity" for signs if they wished to make the heavy amount of signage easier on the eyes.

Benavides noted everyone's comments, but made it clear to the crowd that at no time did he ever say a resident did not have the right to place a real estate sign on their property. He added that real estate was never intended to be a target, but because everyone that attended the hearing happened to be a real estate representative, the focus turned on the matter.

The selectmen plan to readjust the policy regulating commercial signs in town rights-of-way for the next meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Martin Lord and Osman
Salmon Press
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