Chairman’s View: Support a ban on house ‘for sale’ signs

The overwhelming majority of New Canaan citizens want to eliminate real estate signs. In a recent poll at the Advertiser Coffee 95% support a ban. They are a blight on our town. The signs would be gone except for the fact that every year a few Realtors object because it is a cheap form of advertising. 
Remember, we are residents first and Realtors second. We want our town to look beautiful, not like a town-wide tag sale. These signs cheapen New Canaan. If we act like our real estate is at a premium then maybe people will begin to regard it that way.
Greenwich and Tokeneke are our high-end sisters that prove the ban works. Greenwich P&Z regulations, section 6-163 (b) prohibits signs that “Direct attention to a business, product, service or other commercial activity, offered or existing elsewhere than on the premises where such sign is displayed.” New Canaan banned commercial signs with the exception of real estate. Nancy Healy, president of the Greenwich Board of Realtors when they enacted their sign ban said, “If New Canaan is going to make this step they’ll find out … it’s a good thing. It took the clutter off our streets. We are used to it now.”
Why now? What has changed? We have more houses on the market than ever before. In March 2008 New Canaan had 155 houses on the market. Ten years later we have 266 houses on the market, up 42%. That’s not the worst of it. The busiest time of the year for signs is coming up. Expect 358 for sale signs this June. That’s over 5% of the whole town. Nationally, houses sell on average in three weeks. In New Canaan some signs stay up for years, a semi-permanent scar. Signs are harming our ability to sell some streets in this town. Buyers now say, “What’s wrong with this street, why is everything on it for sale?”
The New Canaan Board of Realtors is considering the question. Board President Janis Hennessy absolutely supports the ban. Former presidents Joe Scozzafava and Becky Walsh agree we should take down the signs. Past President Arlene Bubbico disagrees, citing the national statistic that 7% of purchases come from signs. However, those statistics reveal 99% of Millennials and 89% of Boomers search online.
The first selectman supports the ban. We Town government leaders want the support of the Board of Realtors before either taking it to Planning and Zoning for a text change or to the Town Council for an ordinance. 
If you want to take back your town and enhance our real estate values then join me in supporting the ban. Call a Realtor and tell them it’s OK to take down the signs.

— John Engel is chairman of the New Canaan Town Council.