Cumberland council to review LED sign rules in early 2017

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CUMBERLAND — A recommendation from the Planning Board about outdoor illuminated signs could go to the Town Council early next year.

The council in June enacted a six-month moratorium on any new, internally illuminated outdoor signs. The panel’s Ordinance Committee requested the moratorium to give members time to develop an ordinance to govern what are commonly known as LED signs.

Signs lit from within have been prohibited everywhere in town, except those grandfathered on properties like Greely High School, where the use predates the existing sign ordinance.

A request from the Cumberland Congregational Church’s to place an LED sign on its property at 282 Main St. prompted the study.

The Cumberland Council on Nov. 14 forwarded the Ordinance Committee’s proposed sign rules – developed with the town attorney in recent months – to the Planning Board for consideration. The council, after receiving the board’s recommendation, will then vote on an overhauled sign ordinance, updated in part to govern LED signs.

The proposed rules, according to a Nov. 9 memo to the council from Town Manager Bill Shane, call for LED signs to be no more than 3-by-5-feet; in operation only from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; adhere to a “specific number of units of illumination;” be allowed to change only once every 20 minutes, and be black and white only.

The signs would be limited to the Town Center District, which runs along Main Street from the congregational church to Atlantic Credit Union, just beyond Farwell Avenue. That area also includes Doc’s Cafe, the Cumberland Food Stop, and Louie’s Grill.

The district would be expanded in order to include Greely High, with its existing Medium-Density Residential setbacks. Although the sign at Greely is colored, “I would hope to work with the school to try to get them in compliance with the new ordinance,” Shane said.

The expanded zone would also stretch down Tuttle Road to the Greely Middle School driveway, and also contain the Mabel I. Wilson School. The School Administrative District 51 parent-teacher organization has mentioned purchasing an LED sign for the Wilson school, Shane said.

“This is really kind of a trial balloon, to see how it would work here,” he said. “Technology changes, and we have to be prepared for it. This is our toe in the water to see if it works.”

If the new rules work and there is demand, the ordinance could be amended to include U.S. Route 1 and Route 100, Shane said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The Cumberland Town Council could adopt an amended sign ordinance early next year. The rules would include LED signs like this one, which is grandfathered at Greely High School. However, the new ordinance would impose stricter rules on signs, such as mandating that they be black and white, kept off between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and have messages that change no more than every 20 minutes.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.