Town confiscates carload of “feather” business signs

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Some Smithfield business owners were upset last week when a town employee took their “feather” signs without notifying them prior to doing so. 

Clay Vaughan of Vaughan TECH and Steven Respass of Affordable Auto Repair said a man pulled up at their business and removed their signs. Vaughan Tech is located on South Church Street and Affordable Auto is on Battery Park Road.

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“No notice, no one contacted us. Even when he took the flag, he did not come in and tell us,” said Vaughan, adding that several other businesses were affected. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Respass said his daughter decided to follow the driver taking the signs and ended up in a minor collision with his car at the former Little’s Supermarket. 

She was trying to retrieve stolen property and had no idea it was a town employee, said Respass. 

Vaughan said he tried to report the incident to the Smithfield Police, but they told him they couldn’t take a report because it was a town employee taking the signs. 

Efforts to reach the Smithfield Police for comment were unsuccessful by press time. 

Smithfield Town Manager Brian Thrower said the only signs removed were those in the road right-of-way. 

“Temporary signs are not permitted in the right-of-way,” he said, adding that the town is legally permitted to remove signs that have not been issued a permit. 

Thrower did not respond to a question of whether it would have been advisable to notify the business owners first, before taking the signs. 

“These signs detract from the aesthetics of the community and are a traffic hazard due to limiting driver visibility,” said Thrower. 

Vaughan contends that it was on private property and not in the right-of-way.

After the signs were taken and the town was questioned about it, Thrower wanted to know if the newspaper could help “get the word out” that the town is enforcing its ordinance. 

 “The Town requests that any businesses that want to erect a temporary sign on private property complete a temporary sign permit application.  Temporary sign permit applications may be obtained from the Town’s Planning Department at 310 Institute Street,” said Thrower. 

Vaughan and Respass said the signs cost more than $300 each, and while they may be in the wrong about erecting the signs without a permit, the town’s actions were not appropriate, and that’s not the way to handle the situation.

“You’re not teaching me a lesson. I’m not a child,” said Respass. 

“This is not the correct way to do business with the people that support the town,” said Vaughan. 

Vaughan was told the town won’t give his sign back until he gets a permit. A permit costs $10 a month. 

“I want my property back,” he said. 

He also wants an administrative review of this entire incident and believes someone needs to be held responsible.  

 Thrower said the signs will be returned if their owners come to town hall and request them. 

“If they remain unclaimed, the town will dispose of them.  If the business owners would like to put them back up, they will need to submit a temporary sign permit application to our Planning Department. If the permit is approved and issued by our Planning Department they may put the signs back up according to the terms of the permit. If they put them back up in the right of way, town staff will take them up as done before,” said Thrower.  {/mprestriction}