Merchants, Municipality Attend Workshop On Improving Signage Ordinances in Town
Last year, Princeton passed an ordinance to limit the size and regulate the placement of sandwich board signs outside businesses in town. This didn’t sit well with some proprietors, many of whom are members of the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA).
In an effort to provide recommendations for improvements to that ordinance and others that may be developed as the municipality continues to harmonize documents from the former Borough and Township, the PMA held a workshop last week at the Arts Council of Princeton. The June 21 event was led by architect Joshua Zinder of the firm JZA + D, and attended by some representatives of local businesses and members of the town’s administrative staff as well as Mayor Liz Lempert and Councilwoman Jo Butler.
“We’ve worked on a number of shops in town, and it always seems to come up that people feel the signage [regulation] is very restrictive, without a clear understanding of why,” Mr. Zinder said a few days before the workshop. “It has come up a number of times at PMA, and several people have asked me about it.”
After the sandwich board ordinance went into effect, “Many of the merchants in town were very upset about how it was being approved,” Mr. Zinder continued. “They didn’t feel there was a good dialogue where they were included in the discussion. They felt it was the municipality, and a couple of isolated people in the community, without consulting the merchants in general.”
The PMA had some talks with members of Council, and the ordinance was put on hold. Last week’s workshop was focused not only on the sandwich board signs, but on all of the different types and styles utilized by local businesses. Mr. Zinder gave a presentation that was followed by a discussion. The possibility of installing wayfinding signs, with information about how far and approximately how long a walk it would be to a destination, was proposed.
One issue that concerns merchants is the amount of time it can take to get signage approved, especially if the process involves coordination with the Historic Preservation Commission. Lighting was another focus of the discussion. Newer technology makes it easier to control light bleed from signage, which presents new and different opportunities, Mr. Zinder said.
The challenge is to attract local residents to the downtown businesses while also bringing in people from the outside. “There are a lot of empty stores in town,” said Mr. Zinder. “Unique merchants who would be attracted to Princeton are going to Route 1 and the malls, where there is free parking, and you can have any kind of sign you want. Here, there are controls. We don’t make it easy for merchants to come to Princeton.”
The PMA will take information from the workshop and elsewhere, and come back to Council with ideas for improving the ordinances. “My sense is that Council wants to make this work,” Ms. Lempert said this week. “I’m sure there is a solution in there somewhere.”