CFBA wants changes in township rules

Members of the Chadds Ford Business Association want Chadds Ford Township supervisors to lighten up on sign regulations. They took aim at the restrictions in the hope of generating a better business climate during the rough economic times.

Business owners made their comments during the association's monthly meeting. The March 5 session was a breakfast held at the Chadds Ford Township building.

“We want a reasonable mindset from supervisors,” said Bill Bunch, “a relaxation of the sign ordinances for maybe 12 months to ride out the economic downturn.”

Bunch is the owner of William Bunch Auctions at Hillman Drive and Route 202.

He said he was hit with a cease and desist order when he put up, what he called “a tasteful A-frame sign” on his own property. Bunch wants the ability to put up a temporary sign on Tuesdays letting passers by know that there is an auction that day.

“If you drive around the area you see a lot of empty store fronts, ” said Jim Leader, owner of Leader Sunoco. There are even rumors of businesses in the village that are not doing well. What we want to do is discuss with the supervisors some positive ideas of some things we could do even on a temporary basis.”

Leader added he would like businesses to be able to put up some additional signage for about a year.

One store location that had been empty for a year is the site of the former Wawa in the strip mall with the U.S. Post Office at Route 1 and Creek Road. That location was finally rented by Kevin Cattie who started the Cattie Shack Market and Deli.

And while many residents are again patrons of the store, motorists passing by don't realize what the Cattie Shack is. Cattie wants some temporary signs saying he's open and that people can stop in and get their morning coffee.

Cattie told the supervisors that the business owners don't want to see empty store fronts. He had put up some extra signs to let motorists know he was open, but was forced to remove them because of the ordinances.

Supervisors said they understood the business owners' considerations, but added that they would have to proceed with caution.

Supervisors' Chairman George Thorpe said there are many residents who fight against signs and that the board has to balance the needs of businesses with the needs of the others.

“There are places around the country where people go to live because they like the area, then want to close the door behind them so no one else gets in. We have people like that here,” said Thorpe.

He explained further that the two business districts, Route 1 and Route 202 had to be treated differently because the Route 1 business district is also part of the historic district. And that changing the rules for one could lead to a “combative and circus atmosphere.”

He added that the township has modified the rules often to accommodate business needs. Thorpe specifically cited making allowances for events at Hannums Harley Davidson.

Fellow Supervisor Garry Paul said making changes to the sign ordinance could be like “Opening Pandora's Box.”

After the session, D'Elia said she feels for the businesses and thinks some changes are warranted.

"During this economic time, I would recommend relief for all business for 18 months," she said. "I would probably take a look at Concord's relief sign ordinance that they are preparing to enact or have enacted to allow for larger signage."

She added that there could be changes to the definition of temporary sign and a modification of the fee structure. D'Elia gave as an example a scenario where a new business could have an additional sign announcing the business for six months and that pother businesses could have a repeating sign for weekly events or quarterly sales.

"The monthly sign permit does not 'fit' this situation," she said.

Another idea is to have "period appropriate" signs along the Route 1 entrances, north and south, to the village area.

D'Elia cautioned that the HARB would need to be involved in decisions involving businesses in the historic district.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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