If you have been in a car almost anywhere in East Hampton during the past several weeks — and especially if you have been out and about on a bicycle — you will have noticed the abundance of signs that have blossomed on the roadside lately. Some of them are candidates’ signs in advance of a June 25 primary; others are signs urging people to visit a website that is mostly about blocking an electric cable from coming ashore in Wainscott; others advertise summer camps, power-washing services, pony rides, real estate offerings, contracting companies, yard sales, community car washes, benefit parties, and group-sports opportunities.
The clutter stops suddenly at the East Hampton Village borders. This is because there is a universal ban on off-premises placards in the village that empowers the police to confiscate signs and even issue notices of violation to those responsible. By contrast, the town’s rules about signs are convoluted and nearly incomprehensible, detailing specifics about size, placement, illumination, and period of display. Perhaps this is why the town’s Building Department, police, and code enforcement seem to have thrown their hands in the air and decided to more or less ignore the signs.
Indeed, the town lately has gotten into the act itself, muddling up the beach road ends with all manner of admonition, most of which the public looks right past anyway.
Enough. It’s time for everyone — business owners, town officials — to get with the program. East Hampton has long prided itself on its absence of signage, and we shouldn’t let that tradition slip.
In this day of universal social media — and other digital ways to get the word out — there is little reason that enterprises, whether for-profit or not, need to tart up the byways with their messages. The town has worked long and hard to preserve our landscapes and vistas, but visitors and seasonal renters encounter East Hampton as they arrive by car along Montauk Highway and, in some places, signs are all they see.
If enforcing the existing rules is too arduous or takes too much manpower away from more urgent problems, perhaps a new code should be written, imposing a simple, easy-to-follow, and content-neutral ban.