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Smithtown Library criticized over signs on front lawn

Officials with Village of the Branch said they would look into whether the signs advertising businesses and events complies with village and historic district codes.

Multiple signs are spread out on the lawn

Multiple signs are spread out on the lawn of the Smithtown Library branch on North Country Road.  Photo Credit: James Carbone

Village of the Branch Planning Board chairwoman Elizabeth Smith this week criticized the Smithtown Library at a village board meeting for what she said was a profusion of signs on the front lawn of its main building.

The library had eight signs there Wednesday: One identifying a ship mast locust planted by one of Smith’s ancestors in 1850, four related to the library, one bearing the name of funeral homeowners who donated the library’s time capsule and two with the name, phone number and logo of the landscaping company that donated and maintains the flower garden.

It was those last signs, anchored by white posts and standing a few feet off the ground, that drew Smith’s particular ire. “It’s pure advertising,” she said at Tuesday's board meeting. “This is not a small little sign.”

Smithtown Library is an independent taxing district but its main building, on the corner of North Country Road and Main Street, sits within village borders. Village code prohibits erection of most signs without a permit and allows just one sign per lot in the historic district where the library is located.

In an interview Wednesday, Smith warned that the landscaping signs would grow even more obstreperous in the winter and said that village signage rules apply even to nonprofits such as the Methodist Church and the Smithtown Historical Society. “It’s not fair to allow one resident, or one business, or the library, to get the benefits of advertising,” she said.  

Village attorney Christopher Ring said at Tuesday’s meeting that he would address the matter with library officials.

Library director Robert Lusak said in an interview Wednesday that he had not spoken to Ring but that library officials would research their sign responsibilities.

The library rotates banner signs for library events and sometimes allows local nonprofits to post their own banners, he said.

The landscaping company signs are permanent, he said. The company first planted flowers in 2012 and plants new flowers every season, he said, doing for free what would otherwise cost about $2,000 a year. The signs are a “small courtesy” in recognition of that work, he said.

“We certainly want to get along with everybody within the Town of Smithtown, including the Village of the Branch,” he said.

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