In Ridgebury, state goes sign crazy

A multitude of arrow signs were put up to help drivers negotiate the big curve on Old Stagecoach Road. - Macklin Reid photo
A multitude of arrow signs were put up to help drivers negotiate the big curve on Old Stagecoach Road. — Macklin Reid photo

Signs, signs, signs — a seeming truckload of them, have been put up by the state in Ridgebury, and the town is working to get them taken down.

“They are back to back,” Conservation Commission member Eric Beckenstein told the Board of Selectmen. “My car thinks it’s running into a wall.”

First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the board that he’d had complaints about an overkill level of recently erected traffic signs at two locations in Ridgebury: Old Stagecoach Road and Ned’s Mountain Road.

“They put up about 35, in rapid succession,” Marconi said.

They change the look of the area, and don’t seem necessary, Marconi said — at least not in the quantity they were put up.

“This is horrible,” he said. “... Ned’s Mountain has probably the least amount of traffic.”

A drive by Thursday morning, Dec. 13, showed 17 new arrow signs along Old Stagecoach Road, guiding drivers from either direction through the S-curve between the Ridgebury firehouse and the horse farm by the intersection of Ridgebury Road. There were another 26 arrow signs along the length of winding Ned’s Mountain Road.

“The proliferation of signs in general, and on Ned’s Mountain Road in particular, would be comical if not so ridiculous,” Ridgeburian and Planning and Zoning Commissioner John Katz told The Press. “It defiles scenic and rural roads and constitutes policing out of control.”

Marconi told the selectmen he’d be meeting with state officials to seek removal of the signs, which were the subject of discussion at the Dec. 12 selectmen’s meeting and the Dec. 13 Police Commission meeting.

He offered an example of a how a citizen who found the influx of signs diminished his enjoyment of life, a little.

“A gentleman walks it every morning. He loves the tranquility,” Marconi said.

Now the signs drive him crazy.

Police Commission

The state’s installation of the signs was done with the support of the Police Commission, which is the town’s official traffic authority, though the commission apparently wasn’t made aware how many signs were going to be put up on two relatively short stretches of roadway.

“The Police Commission approved it,” Marconi said. “They don’t even remember seeing — it was just: ‘Put up some Sharp Turn signs.’ They thought ‘We don’t have to pay for it…’ ”

The Police Commission discussed the signs the night after they came up at the selectmen’s meeting.

Police Commission Chairman George Kain explained to The Press how the commission had originally agreed to the erection of the signs.

“The RPC received notice from the state that a federal grant was available to assist towns in addressing local road signage issues. They identified Ned's Mountain Road and Old Stagecoach Road as roads in Ridgefield that were problematic,” Kain said.

“In 2017, the RPC agreed to accept their offer on the basis of their assertion that a ‘high visibility sign’ would be erected. We had no idea of their plan to construct the ‘chevron’ signs as they currently appear. At our PC meeting last night, we all voiced our objection to the signs that have been placed on both roads.”

Kain said the Police Commission was working with Marconi to address the issue, and expected to meet with state officials Dec. 20 to discuss it.

“We remain sensitive to the concerns of our neighbors and for the need to preserve the character of our scenic roads,” Kain said. “I have personally viewed the signage on both roads and find it to be excessive. The RPC is in agreement that the current sign pattern needs to be significantly adjusted and/or removed.”

At the selectmen’s meeting, Marconi sounded frustrated that the state was seemingly oblivious to the impact of such a series of signs on a scenic area, but he seemed confident that the town could get the signs — or many of them — removed.

“It’s a local road. They don’t even have jurisdiction,” he said.

“...I don’t know where the money comes from for that program.”