Sign Policy, Equity Committee Discussed Again

by Doug McClure

HARDWICK – At its August 20 meeting, the select board again pondered the latest incarnation of the proposed new sign policy and equity committee. Board member Lucian Avery was the latest member of the select board to revise the documents.

With regard to signage policy, in his draft Avery removed sections dealing with art on public property and the five-day window for signage and restored much of the language from the two older policies. All present voiced concerns that the Avery’s draft failed to address the issue of town officials adjudicating content. Avery said he removed language describing “hate speech” because he felt it contravened First Amendment protections.

Board member Ceilidh Galloway-Kane said, “in my personal opinion the [draft] policy does not capture the art on public property section” as previous drafts did.

With a motion on the table and no second, board member Shari Cornish said, “I’m inclined to call to question and include the part about the Peace Park, it’s insane to draw this out.” According to Robert’s Rules a call to question requires a second to a motion, so Cornish withdrew her motion.

Avery said he was not sure he was on board with including the section about public art.

“Now the town has to decide what’s art and what’s not art?” he asked.

Hardwick Police Department Chief Aaron Cochran said he preferred the older versions of the policy which required pre-approval for all signs. He said the proposed time frame for signs to be displayed concerned him. “Five days can cause a lot of civil unrest in a small community,” he said.

Galloway-Kane made a motion to adopt the second version of the policy with the addition of the public art section and official recognition of the Peace Park. She offered to “wordsmith” the language. The board liked the idea of Galloway-Kane incorporating the public art and Peace Park language into Avery’s proposed sign policy, but asked to see the final version. The board voted down Galloway-Kane’s motion pending review of her revisions to the policy.

Regarding the equity committee, the board reviewed Avery’s proposed changes. Cornish said she felt the board was getting into the weeds, and “There are people in the community waiting for us to take action.” She reminded the board that the resolution was made in June and said the committee could return to the select board with any changes deemed necessary.

Avery proposed a stipend for committee members, which Cornish felt was out of the normal procedure for committees. “I think that there is money to be found, the committee can come to us and tell us what they’d like to line up [for experts] and what it’s going to cost,” Cornish said.

Vice Chair Elizabeth Dow concurred “that [stipend] is $1,500 a year when no other committee member gets that. It would create problems.”

The board considered the proposed committee membership, ranging from three to nine in number. Also considered was the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ question regarding the committee’s ratio of residents and non-residents. Dow said a nine-member board may be necessary down the road if the committee formed subcommittees. “You can start off with a workload of five [members] and as the workload grows you have the option. I think that’s not a bad thing as long as it’s not a requirement.”

Cornish suggested adding the language “to work for the town and to help the select board realize the Equity for All Resolution” to the formation documents.

The board approved the committee’s formation. Anyone interested in participating should contact the town manager’s office via e-mail at shaun.fielder@hardwickvt.org, or by phone at (802) 472-6120.