YEAR IN REVIEW — SIGNS
BERLIN—Despite its tranquil small town external characteristics, Berlin’s internal politics can go to the mat with the feistiest of hardball combatants and this year was no exception. Merchants, pols and residents alike proved time and again this year they do not lack the passion to battle for issues they care about.
The appropriateness of merchants who used sandwich board signs to direct potential customers to off-Main Street shops and café tables and chairs for al fresco dining along the sidewalks in front of their establishments ratcheted from concerns over creating obstructions for wheelchairs and strollers to a full blown ordinance this year.
When concerns were raised over whether the signs and tables left enough sidewalk space to avoid violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act during a meeting of the Historic District Commission, the town attorney was consulted.
Over the summer merchants began receiving letters from the planning and zoning department rejecting the quality and designs of their signs along with notices that the signs could no longer be displayed until they were approved by the Historic District Commission.
The notices set off a series of unfortunate and rancorous events that led to a town council meeting packed with angry store owners and a town council that was taken completely by surprise.
As a result of the brouhaha that ensued, the town planning director abruptly quit the next morning. In July, the town eventually adopted an ordinance that instituted size specifications for wooden sandwich board signs and designated the Berlin Planning Director as the official who will be assigned to review requests for proposed signs.
Restaurateurs may now seek approval for café tables and chairs by a simple request to the town council.