Lewes takes on sandwich board signs

City considers crackdown on size, location of signs
June 17, 2019

Sandwich board signs may be one way for Lewes merchants to get customers in the door, but mayor and city council may soon crack down on the size and placement of the signs. 

City code requires the signs be no larger than 12 inches wide by 36 inches tall. When code enforcement officer Steve Barrow recently investigated the issue, he found 15 of 19 businesses with sandwich board signs did not comply with city code. Some were more egregious than others. He and City Manager Ann Marie Townshend brought the issue to the attention of mayor and city council. 

“We felt this was a big enough deal that it should come to council,” Townshend said. “We don’t want to open the whole sign code, but we can add some tweaks and bring it forward. Or we can enforce what we have, knowing we’re going to have a number of unhappy businesses.” 

Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait said the last thing he wants to do is antagonize business owners. He said he’s not bothered by the sandwich board signs that are slightly larger than permitted, but he would like to crack down on the signs that are far beyond what’s allowed. He suggested Barrow and Townshend work together to offer recommendations to update the ordinance and bring it back to council at its July meeting. 

“Perhaps we might consider 18 inches [wide] rather than 12 inches,” he said, cautioning that the city’s sidewalks are narrower than most other coastal towns. 

In the meantime, he said, city staff should talk to merchants and tell them the signs are required to be placed next to the building and not out on the sidewalk. 

Councilwoman Bonnie Osler said Lewes sidewalks are already crowded in the summer and sandwich board signs only increase congestion.  “Maybe we don’t want them out there in the summer or at least during our worst period of congestion,” she said. “We have to weigh the merchants’ interests in letting people know they’re there with the fact that we already have people walking in the streets because the sidewalks are too crowded.”

Mayor Ted Becker said towns throughout the country ban sandwich board signs completely. “But I’m not suggesting that,” he said. 

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