Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
CVS sign to shine again after settlement reached in suit

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
February 28, 2008

VERNON - CVS can light up - with some restrictions, that is.

The contested battle over an electronic sign at the Talcottville Road pharmacy is now over after Vernon Superior Court Judge Samuel J. Sferrazza last Thursday approved a settlement agreement between the town, CVS and Poyant Signs Inc.

For years town authorities have railed against the flashing sign, which they said was not only garish and contributed to blight, but also was a safety hazard, distracting drivers on an already accident prone stretch of road.

The long-running dispute began in 2004 when CVS erected the sign just outside its entrance, displaying various electronic messages advertising goods and services in apparent violation of zoning regulations.

According to Town Attorney Harold Cummings, there was a misunderstanding between zoning officials and CVS over what constitutes a "flashing" message board - does it blink intermittently every three minutes or half hour?

While the debate wore on, the town ordered the sign deactivated, and it remained blank while CVS and Poyant Signs reapplied for a permit.

In May 2007 the Planning and Zoning Commission denied the application, and a lawsuit was promptly filed against the town.

The two parties entered mediation a month later, and a settlement agreement was approved by the commission this month granting CVS a permit for the sign with the following stipulations:

* No color changes allowed in the electronic message, which will display only red letters on a black background

* No animation or graphics displayed, other than symbols for dollars and cents

* No message changes more frequent than 30-minute intervals, and from midnight to 6 a.m. only a static message reading "Open 24 Hours" can be displayed

* No additional electronic message boards shall be installed at any other CVS location in Vernon

"It's a good and fair settlement," Cummings said.

The PZC, meanwhile, is crafting new language to amend its regulations to clear up any ambiguity and prevent future electronic signs and message boards from being installed in local commercial zones.

Officials have expressed concern that a proliferation of message board signs could harm the appearance of the town and pose a hazard to passing motorists who might become distracted.

And once a store is allowed to have a blinking neon or electric sign, others would soon follow suit, they said.

©Journal Inquirer 2008