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November 19. 2013 9:27PM

Driving school owner blames new sign ordinance for drop in business

LONDONDERRY — The owner of a Londonderry driving school says the town's current sign ordinance is hindering his business.

Manchester resident Al Cardello, owner of Complete Auto Driving School, said he's noticed a decline in business since moving operations to the Londonderry Presbyterian Church.

For years, Cardello, a former Londonderry resident, taught his classes inside the Mammoth Road Lions Hall, but an upstairs remodeling project at the town-owned facility caused him to relocate across the street.

During his time at both facilities, Cardello said his main means of advertising was a portable, A-frame sign placed on the grass, first in front of Lions Hall, then in front of the Pillsbury Road church, which is located diagonally across a busy intersection.

Earlier this year, however, Cardello said he was informed by Londonderry Senior Building Inspector Richard Canuel that he wasn't permitted to leave his sign outside indefinitely, because he is no longer working on town property.

"Since then, my enrollment has definitely dropped," Cardello told the Londonderry Town Council Monday night. "Some people don't even know where my school is anymore."

The topic of A-frame, or "sandwich board" signs has been a touchy one in Londonderry this year.

This past spring, the Londonderry Planning Board held a series of public hearings to address public concern over a new ordinance requiring local businesses to remove their stand-alone signs from their outside sidewalks.

At the time Kathy Wagner, director of the Londonderry Commerce and Visitors Center, took issue urging town officials to make an exception to the rule by allowing commercial businesses to place their signs outside during operating hours."Local businesses are struggling, and they need as much foot traffic as they can get," she said, noting that the signs were important to notify potential customers of daily specials, sales or other promotions without spending their limited funds on advertising.

In June, the board unanimously approved an amendment to the town's sign ordinance. However, the amendments specifically states the A-frame signs are allowed only "outside multi-tenant buildings at the purview of a code enforcement officer."

Those rules aren't written to apply to town-owned facilities, however. This week, officials admitted they're not quite sure what this means for a for-profit business operating inside a house of worship.

"I was told if I was still on town property, this wouldn't be a problem," Cardello said.

"Since the church isn't a commercial building, this doesn't match up to our ordinance," Council Chairman John Farrell said. "This is a different type of situation, one we really didn't cover when we dealt with this (earlier this year)."

After discussing the matter further, the council agreed a final decision on the matter would rest with Town Manager Kevin Smith.

The sign ordinance will be discussed further during an upcoming Town Council meeting. The council next meets Monday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. in the Moose Hill Council Chambers at Londonderry Town Hall.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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