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Two Pawcatuck Business Owners Skirt Stonington Sign Regulations

Pawcatuck— A florist and a restaurant here have come up with a creative way to circumvent the town's restrictive sign regulations and advertise their businesses.

The owners of Pot of Green and Capt 'N Tim's Galley have plastered a pickup truck and a van with large signs advertising roses and seafood and parked the vehicles in the section of their parking lot closest to Route 1. The town had prevented the two from erecting any additional signs, and Pot of Green owner Steven Mann has even been fined $150 for repeatedly using a sandwich board sign to advertise his special of a dozen roses for $5.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joe Larkin said that the vehicles are registered and are parked in legal parking spots. He said the town had been unsuccessful about a decade ago trying to stop a Mystic business owner from doing the same thing.

“There's not much I can do,” he said.

The Pot of Green banner covers a large section of Mann's delivery van and advertises the roses special. Tim Medeiros, the owner of the restaurant, has three handpainted signs on his pickup truck. They advertise his operating hours and menu items such as fish and chips, Portuguese dishes and lobster.

“It may not be pretty but it does get people's attention. This is what we need here to bring in business. We can't let people drive by and go to Rhode Island to spend their money,” Medeiros said.

Both he and Mann said it is difficult for motorists driving by on Route 1 to see their shops because they are set far back from the road. A sign in front of the shopping center located next to the police station lists all the businesses.

Both men had previously gotten into trouble with Larkin for erecting illegal signs.

Larkin said he twice took Mann's sandwich board signs after Mann placed them on the lawn in front of the shopping center despite warnings that they violated zoning regulations. When Larkin returned the signs, Mann put one out again. Larkin fined him $150. Mann has appealed the fine and a hearing has been scheduled for later this month.

Medeiros said he first put up a banner advertising breakfast but Larkin told him to take it down. He then put up a freestanding sign plugging his prime rib dinner but had to remove that one as well. After he received a written warning from Larkin, he said, he noticed a nearby furniture store had a banner hung on a truck. When he asked the owner about it he was told it was legal.

Mann charged the town doesn't treat everyone equally. He said nonprofit groups and other businesses have illegal signs but are not cited. He added that drive-by customers represent 50 to 60 percent of his sales, so it is critical to make people aware of his shop as they drive past.

“Isn't it better to have signs than have empty businesses?” he asked. “If you want a good economy, you have to work with people. You would think the town would want to help businesses,” he said.
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