Troubling signs: The Hoff, others violate town rules
Updated 4:55 pm, Friday, July 27, 2012
David Hasselhoff's starring role in Fairfield was shut down by town zoning regulations. Well, a large cardboard cut-out of the star of "Baywatch" and "Knight Rider" was yanked anyway.
The cut-out of a grinning Hasselhoff -- cradling a large beverage and beckoning passing motorists with the query, "Thirsty?" -- until last week was attached to a light stanchion at the Cumberland Farms outlet at the corner of Post and Beach roads
The image of the actor and inexplicable German singing sensation -- who titled his autobiography "Don't Hassle the Hoff" -- was promoting the convenience store's iced coffees.
There's just one problem. The Hoff's cut-out violated the town's zoning regulations on signs, according to Assistant Planning Director James Wendt.
"They can put promotional signs in their windows, but if it's outside, it's a sign that falls under our regulations," Wendt said.
Wendt said such a zoning violation is not unusual, and when his office learns of them, the offending business will be sent a notice that requests the nonconforming sign be taken down.
Any signs that might be in the town's right-of-way can be confiscated by the town, he said.
"This is not unique to their site," Wendt said, acknowledging that other businesses around town post similarly nonconforming signs.
An informal survey around town showed other nonconforming signs, including at the Citgo gas station directly across the Post Road from Cumberland Farms, and at the Shell station next door.
A popular variation of the illegal signs is the sandwich board sign that restaurants like to use to advertise such things as their daily special.
According to the zoning regulations, all signs need a certificate of zoning compliance or be part of an approved sign plan and "no signs shall be permitted in any district except identification signs."
Signs, as defined by the regulations, include flags and banners "intended to advertise or attract attention to any business or commercial establishment."
A spokesman for Cumberland Farms, Derek Beckwith, when contacted by the Fairfield Citizen, said the retailer "works very hard to adhere to all zoning regulations." He said if a violation of the town's sign regulations did occur, it was inadvertent and would be corrected.
The cut-out of "The Hoff" was gone the next day.
A big problem for zoning officials, Wendt said, is a lack of staff to enforce the sign regulations.
Earlier this year, the Planning and Zoning Commission in neighboring Westport passed an amendment permitting freestanding, portable signs in commercial zones, though there are restrictions on the appearance of those signs and an annual permit is required. The relaxation of the town's regulations was at the request of Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff as a way to help local businesses during the recession.
But there seems to be little stomach for doing the same in Fairfield.
Those signs, he said, are one of the most common complaints received by the commission from both residents and business owners alike. Such signs, LeClerc said, add visual clutter to the town.
He added that he is frustrated the Planning and Zoning Department doesn't have enough staff to address the issue.
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