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Great but illegal: A sad sign in Albany

September 15. 2013 4:41PM

The Conway Daily Sun tells a story from Albany that sounds like some big-city regulatory nightmare.

Carole Cotton has a little shop called Our Favorite Things. Not long ago, she posted outside the shop a blackboard on which she asked customers to complete the sentence “Before I die I want to ...”

The board was up for 32 days, in which time hundreds of people wrote their answers, the Sun reported. Then Saturday a week ago Cotton was visited by a sheriff’s deputy. On behalf of the Albany selectmen, she was served papers. They informed her that she was subject to a fine of up to $275 a day because the town considered the board a sign — one larger than the town ordinance allowed. It had to be removed immediately.

“You can’t overlook something because it’s good,” Kathy Vizard, Albany’s administrative assistant, told the Sun. “All we want is for (Cotton) to come into compliance. We don’t want to be the bad guy, but we have to be fair to everyone. I agree it’s a great sign, but it’s not legal.”

Vizard said other property owners also had illegal signs and were served papers. Cotton wanted her blackboard to be allowed as a mural, but the ordinance has no category for murals.

Selectmen encouraged Cotton to apply for a variance. She refused. She should not have to ask for special treatment. If the rules are so restrictive that they ban creativity that everyone in town enjoys, then maybe the problem is with the rules, not the creativity.


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