October 31, 2014

Town rules shut out scoreboard

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Little League can’t use ads on digital device

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Town zoning regulations for the village will likely mean that the Williston Little League cannot accept a sponsor’s offer to purchase a new electronic scoreboard.

Mike Healey, a member of the Williston Little League Board of Directors, said Coca-Cola representatives had indicated a willingness to fund a new electronic scoreboard for the Community Park baseball field. Healey estimated the cost of the scoreboard at $10,000.

However, the Coca-Cola sponsorship would include a sign for the company on the scoreboard. D.K. Johnston, the town’s zoning administrator, said municipal zoning regulations appear to prohibit that sort of sign in the village.

Johnston said the Coca-Cola sign would technically be classified as a billboard sign — which is not allowed in town — because it advertises a product that is off site. Also, the town’s sign code does not allow for moving parts, which the scoreboard would have.

“Saying no to the Little League is like saying no to Mom and apple pie, but it does not seem to be permitted,” Johnston said.

Johnston gave Healey input based on an inquiry about the scoreboard and not a formal application. The Development Review Board and the Historic Preservation Committee would both review an application for the scoreboard and might disagree with Johnston’s assessment.

Johnston told Healey that the scoreboard would more likely fit the town’s regulations if there was no sign attached. He said the scoreboard alone would be considered a structure, like a fence or a shed, and would be considered under those guidelines.

“The scoreboard without the sign seems innocuous enough to me,” Johnston said.

Of course, the absence of the sign would mean the absence of the sponsorship dollars. Healey said the Little League has discussed ways to raise money to buy the electronic scoreboard. He said the Little League will pursue a capital campaign this year that could target the scoreboard purchase.

“Our feeling is that the facilities at the field should be of top quality and represent the town of Williston well,” Healey said. “It’s also something the kids deserve.”

Healey said the Williston Little League had an opportunity to host a regional tournament game last summer, but was unable to do it because the Community Park field was not equipped with an electronic scoreboard. Little League rules require an electronic scoreboard for tournament games, Healey said.

In order for the Little League to apply for a permit for the electronic scoreboard, the town will need to sign onto the application because it has a licensing agreement with the school to use the field.

To that end, Healey approached the Selectboard on Monday night and asked for direction. The Selectboard decided to seek Recreation Committee input and to put the item on an agenda in April.

The Community Park field is one of three fields utilized by the Williston Little League. The others are at Brennan Woods and Rossignol Park. The Community Park field hosts games for teams in the Major League, which is the top division in the Little League. It has a manual scoreboard.

Healey initially approached Johnston with a broader sign inquiry. He asked about the viability of the Little League selling advertising to sponsors for signs on the outfield fence.

However, those signs faced similar obstacles as the scoreboard. Johnston said a survey of signs in the village indicates that the signs currently posted, including signs for the school, the library and the recreation fields, already amounted to more than was permitted in the district.

Johnston said the town allows for temporary permits for signs, but the Little League season runs longer than the permits.

Healey said the Little League remains interested in posting signs on the fences, but is shelving the proposal while it focuses on the scoreboard.

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