New Off-Premises Signs Banned

Markeshia Ricks photoThomas Breen photoAlders voted to limit the number of public advertisements in the city by prohibiting nearly all new off-premises signs, or signs that advertise a business located other than where the sign stands.

The vote came during Monday night’s full Board of Alders meeting in the Aldermanic Chambers on the second floor of City Hall.

The alders unanimously voted amended the city’s zoning regulations to eliminate mini-panels and poster signs as permitted uses in the New Haven Code of Ordinances.

The zoning text change ensures that all future advertisements put up in the city must be located either on the site of the business doing the advertising, or on a large bulletin or “spectacular” that points to a limited access highway, as opposed to pointing to a local street.

“There’s no more room,” Westville/Beaver Hills Alder Richard Furlow said about the need to limit the number of public advertisements in New Haven. Furlow was also the sponsor of the zoning amendment.

“As we’re becoming a more dense city, we can’t have all of these blinking signs on buildings advertising businesses” that are located elsewhere.

The amendment to Article V, Section 44.1 of the city’s code of ordinances removes all mentions of mini-panels and posters from the section on “Off premises signs.”

Click here to review a copy of the zoning text change.

An off-premises sign is defined as sign that directs attention to a business, commodity, industry or other activity which is sold, offered or conducted elsewhere than on the premises upon which the sign is located.

Before the change, the ordinance described four types of off-premises signs: mini-panels, posters, bulletins and spectaculars.

While bulletins and spectaculars can be as large as 900 square feet and as tall as 30 feet, those larger signs are only allowed to be oriented towards a limited access highway. They cannot be placed on just any city street.

Mini-panels and posters, on the other hand, are typically three by eight feet and 12 by 25 feet respectively, and were allowed to be placed on local streets. Mini-panels were allowed in any zoning district by special exception, and posters were allowed in BA, BB, BE, IL and IH districts as of right.
“We just don’t have any more room for it,” Furlow said about the smaller, and now prohibited, off-premises mini-panels and posters. “As economic development continues to boom, we just felt that it was not a good fit. We’re not New York City, where these signs are all over the place.”

“New Haven’s desnse pattern of development and the close proximity of residential to commercial districts make these kinds of signs inappropriate,” Westville Alder Adam Marchand said Mondaynight in support of the amendment. “Removing them from our zoning code will ensure no further examples will be installed in our great city.”

Furlow said the zoning change will not affect existing off-premises mini-panels and posters.

Richard Furlow photoThe move represents local legislators’ first legal action in response to some Westville neighbors’ confusion and irritation about the sudden appearance of a 230-square-foot, double-sided electronic billboard in BD Food Market and Deli’s parking lot at 1057 Whalley Ave.

Alders and the area’s state legislator, Pat Dillon, told residents that the billboard had been constructed as of right, and was therefore in compliance with city zoning law.

Towards the end of the state’s short legislative session in May, Dillon sponsored and shepherded through the General Assembly a statewide response to the new billboard. House Bill 5515, which was approved by both chambers of the General Assembly and signed by the governor at the end of May, empowers local zoning commissions throughout the state to regulate the brightness and illumination of advertising signs and billboards. Like the one on Whalley Avenue.

Thanks to Monday night’s vote in New Haven, new billboards like the one on Whalley Avenue are not permitted by the city. (All existing billboards, including the one in BD Market and Deli’s parking lot, are grandfathered into compliance with new city law and will not be affected by the zoning change.)

Furlow promised that the alders will take advantage of the passage of House Bill 5515 to pass a new ordinance in the future that regulates the brightness of illuminated public advertisements.

“Do you want to turn our city into a big advertisement?” Furlow said. “It seems like we have enough.”

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posted by: Not Worthy on August 8, 2018  12:27pm

The great thing about traveling in Vermont or Canada is the severe lack of billboards and other kinds of obnoxious signage. This law is a good one.

posted by: Noteworthy on August 8, 2018  1:00pm

Yes We Can Notes:

This is such BS. “We can’t have all these blinking signs…” Just how many does Ald Furlow think there are? I drive all over this city and I don’t see them. Moreover, this is what matters to Furlow - blinking signs and in the same meeting he supported a violation of the city’s charter - operating at a deficit and using bond money to pay operating expense. It also violates our common sense and any level of intelligence. During the budget meetings, Furlow couldn’t find a single item to cut, not one thin dime - nothing, nada, zilch. But hey, he can grandstand over a blinking sign. Go sell that and your $30 million tax hike. Furlough, Furlow.

posted by: chrisjohngilson on August 8, 2018  1:37pm

I have to ask if this is the same Board of Alders that ok’d McDonalds ads next to the bike racks all over town? (Asking Ironically) And wouldn’t this zoning change have prohibited them from allowing the bike ads without an exemption? (Asking seriously)

Personally, I’d rather not see New Haven turn into Blade Runner’s neon nightmare, and would like to get rid of all outdoor advertising.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 8, 2018  3:15pm


Besides the Bike Ads, I am also noticing new off-site advertisements on the fancy new downtown garbage cans….  but I guess that might be one of the perks for paying additional tax-money to the Town Green Special Services District..

This administration has proliferated this practice of willy-nilly advertising…
‘As long as ‘The City’ is behind the ads’, is the real message here….

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 8, 2018  3:25pm

Does this provision also apply to ‘ads’ in the empty store windows of vacant Yale Properties, or are does Yale Properties just qualify as ‘one big business’....and are ‘exempt’ once again.

posted by: Pat from Westville on August 8, 2018  4:46pm

To me the most obnoxious aspect of the Whalley Avenue billboard is that it is ELECTRONIC, something hard to ignore, like you could a simple non-electronic one. Noteworthy, you might feel a little differently if that billboard’s light happened to be shining into your bedroom, as I understand was the case for at least some of the billboard’s immediate neighbors. Not to mention being one more distraction endangering both motorists & pedestrians.

posted by: BevHills730 on August 9, 2018  9:29am

Very good initiative.  Now we just need to think of ways to get this sign out.  Call the businesses at advertise on the sign and politely ask that they stop advertising.  Boycotts seem out of proportion, but if the businesses get enough calls I’m sure they will question the value of paying good money for bad publicity.

posted by: Noteworthy on August 9, 2018  3:34pm


The least of one’s worries on Whalley Avenue is a small billboard. Fire engines, tractor trailers, speeding cars, heavy traffic - you’re going to worry about a few lights? Not a chance. If I was worried about lights or any of those other things I mentioned, I’d be living on another street. There are plenty from which to choose. This is a fake issue - any everybody in Furlow’s ward should ignore this and focus on the $30 million tax hike, using debt to pay operational costs.

posted by: BevHills730 on August 9, 2018  8:10pm

Perhaps Noteworthy is mad that elected leaders aren’t leading on his policy agenda which includes protections for rapists and pedophiles.

posted by: NHPLEB on August 10, 2018  9:49am

I agree with the commenters who notice that there is a flurry of “action”  after an unpopular tax hike/ bond scam/reassessment/etc.  and before any election.  This is to distract an already overwhelmed populace from the real crimes being committed.  While I don’t like the trashy ads on anything that moves or is planted in the city,  I still see no publication of the votes on the budget,  the new Strong School, the tax hikes,  or anything else that the public should know.  Step right up , brave politicians,  and tell us how YOU voted on the above issues.  LET THE PUBLIC DECIDE IF YOU DESERVE RE-ELECTION BASED ON THE FACTS; NOT EMOTION AND RHETORIC.

posted by: Jill Campbell on August 13, 2018  2:29pm

In response to the observations by Bill Saunders and chrisjohngilson:  In addition to the “ad panels” featuring McDonald’s and Heineken that have appeared recently in city neighborhoods, as allowed by the agreement between the bike-share for-profit company and the City of New Haven, I believe that the ads Bill Saunders has noticed on “Big Belly” trash receptacles downtown are ALSO placed there by the bike-share co and with revenues going to them.  As I understand the contract I’ve read between the city and that company, that company now have rights to place ads on any city “infrastructure,” including trash cans, light-posts, city vehicles, parking structures, and more—so this could be just the beginning of the invasion of our city streets and sidewalks by advertising.  If this is incorrect, I’d like the Alders and City Planning to clarify—I’m concerned.