Sandwich boards and poison ivy don’t have much in common — that is, unless you’re the Village of New Paltz. Last week trustees said that laws banning sandwich board signs and poison ivy are difficult to enforce and could possibly be repealed.
Aside from mandating grass shorter than three inches, New Paltz’s lawn care and landscaping law requires that property owners — including the Village of New Paltz itself — keep their parcels “free of poison ivy, poison sumac, ragweed, goldenrod and other harmful weeds and rank or noxious vegetation.”
Mayor Jason West said that’s a tough order to follow. A recent estimate to remove poison ivy from village parks came in at approximately $19,000. He’s getting a second estimate.
“If we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it and we’ll go from there,” West said. “But we need to do something, because it’s overtaking our parks.”
Trustee Sally Rhoads suggested it might be better to strike the law entirely — or develop a better plan.
“It seems to me that we have one of two choices here. We either dispense with the law on poison ivy, or I believe part of the job description of the [Department of Public Works] is park maintenance. And I believe the removal of poison ivy is part of their job,” Rhoads said. “I’m not paying $19,000 for an outside poison ivy remover.”
That the Village of New Paltz has failed to consistently meet its own poison ivy standards has been known for years. Back in 2010, blogger Terence Ward called out Village Hall for allowing poison ivy to grow in Sojourner Truth Park and near the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in a post on New Paltz Gadfly.
Trustees have looked into getting goats to eat the weed instead of using herbicides, but it hasn’t panned out, the mayor said.
Trustee Tom Rocco acknowledged that the poison ivy law creates potential expenses for homeowners, too. It’s also a problem at the Rocco household.
“My wife and I, we tried to contract with someone to come remove just from our half acre. It would have cost us $2,000 — for a half acre,” he said, adding that he’s removed the weed by hand. “It’s the reason I’ve gotten poison ivy four times.”
Poison ivy and poison sumac create an allergic reaction on human skin, which increases with subsequent exposures. It causes a painful, itchy blistering rash.
Not all the Village Board agreed that repealing the law is the way to go — although it could be an option. For now, Mayor West at least wants to look for a better deal.
“It might not be an ‘either/or’ situation. It could be we hire someone this year, because it’s been left so long. And then in subsequent years, the DPW could just pull it out,” the mayor said.
Sandwich boards — the V-shaped folding temporary signs placed in front of businesses — aren’t allowed under the village code right now.
But that hasn’t stopped stores from using them anyway, according to Village Board members.
“Right now, we are in denial,” Trustee Rhoads explained. She wants the building inspector, herself and other village officials to “take a walk down Main Street, see where we have received complaints on the sandwich boards and just tell people, ‘sorry you can’t have them’.”
Sandwich boards can cause tripping issues for pedestrians, who can bump their feet against them. According to Rhoads, the village could face lawsuits related to not enforcing it.
“If somebody trips, as they did this winter, we could have been sued; because it’s our law — and we’re not enforcing it.”
Mayor West and Trustee Ariana Basco said they favor striking the law entirely.
Currently, village sign law says that “sandwich boards are prohibited, except those containing a noncommercial message provided the period of display shall not exceed two weeks.” No matter what the message — even under that noncommercial exemption — they’re completely banned from being on sidewalks.
Punishment for violating the sign law is a warning letter for first offenses, and removal of the sign if the violation continues for 30 days after the warning.
Deputy Mayor Rebecca Rotzler suggested that in moving to repeal the sandwich board restriction, that the Village Board think about new design standard regulations for the signs.
Basco said she had a problem with the village’s ban on signs with moving parts meant to blow in the wind. She’d like to see that restriction repealed as well.
Trustees Rhoads and Basco said they’d work together to come up with recommendations about potential changes to the sign law, reporting them to the full Village Board.