Business people need a chance to compete

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:08

MILFORD - “Help” was the operative word on Monday night. If changes are made to help borough merchants compete with the big boxes, the historic district won’t have any viable stores left, several Milford business owners told members of the borough planning commission. The issue came to the forefront last week, when Dan and Linda Fields of Denege’s clothing store at the Upper Mill came to the borough council after learning that their sale banner constituted a zoning violation. The Fields say the banner is traditional with store customers and want to use it for change of season sales, four times a year. Based on the Fields’ comcerns, the council directed that the planning commission look at revising the sign ordinance regarding banners. Sitting in the back of the room, Council President Matthew Osterberg listened in on the planning commission meeting. Borough zoning requires a four-page permit application, payment of a fee, and limits any banner to a single use, which will last no longer than 15 days. “This has been in the same window since 1988. Just now, almost 20 years later it’s a problem?” Dan Fields asked the planners Monday. “How many days a year can it hang before it impedes on the district’s historic character?” borough consulting planner Carson Helfrich asked rhetorically. Ron Heller of Gifford & White, a neighboring store at the mill said a similar banner he uses has the highest impact on his sales. “When I put that banner out, it’s good for a 22-percent increase in sales, at least,” he said. “If you don’t do something, there won’t be anyone in business,” said Lumberyard Shops manager, Bill Malson. “They’re killing us (in Westfall’s big box stores)” he said. Commission Chair Ed Raarup said Helfrich would research alternatives. “We can’t do anything about it tonight,” he added. After the meeting, Osterberg said Milford is and would remain business friendly. “We want these people to succeed,” he said.