Maple Tree Place installing mock signs next week

By Tim Simard
Observer correspondent

Motorists on U.S. 2 and Vermont 2A may notice something different next week around Maple Tree Place. The shopping center plans to install two mock signs at its entrances on both roads. It’s all part of an effort by Maple Tree Place to increase signage and visibility for visitors unfamiliar with the mall.

The mock signs are for the benefit of the Development Review Board. The board wants to see what the signs will look like before approving a master sign plan, which would establish regulations for all signage within Maple Tree Place.

Representatives of Inland U.S. Management, the company that owns Maple Tree Place, went before the board Tuesday night hoping for a master sign plan approval. The board tabled the issue until a June 22 meeting so members could view the temporary signs. The signs will be installed early next week, said David Raphael, architect with the Middlebury-based design firm LandWorks.

During the meeting, Inland spokespersons outlined plans to increase signage on the property. Raphael said the signs are an important step in improving the shopping center.

“The primary reason for the increase in (sign) size is visibility and legibility,” Raphael said.

Inland is looking to build two large, freestanding signs at the mall’s entrances. The largest sign, located on U.S. 2 near the Shaw’s Supermarket parking lot, will be 10 feet high by 13 feet wide. The other, along Vermont 2A, will be 11 feet high by 3.5 feet wide. Raphael said each letter, which will spell out “Maple Tree Place,” would be approximately 12 inches high. A drawing or etching of a maple tree set against an off-white background will be featured on both signs.

While the signs’ heights would stay within what is allowed in Williston’s bylaws, the overall size made some board members a little uneasy. Hence the board asked for mock-ups before approving any sign plans.

“They would be the biggest signs in town, by far,” board chairman Kevin McDermott said.

Added board member Brian Jennings, “I just don’t want this to be a situation where someone is driving down the road saying, ‘What was the town thinking when they approved this?’”

In keeping with the design of Maple Tree Place, the entrance signs will be made up of brick and cement, Raphael said. The mockups will be constructed of plywood and other temporary materials, he added. His company would print out the lettering and picture designs in a banner format to make the mock-ups as real as possible.

Planning Director Ken Belliveau said after the meeting that he was curious to see how residents respond to the temporary signs. He added the town’s planning department supports the idea of entrance signs for Maple Tree Place, although the overall size is a concern.

“It’ll be kind of interesting to see what kind of attention it gets, what kind of calls we’ll get,” Belliveau said.

As part of Maple Tree Place’s master sign plan, the shopping center also hopes to add directional signs within the complex, alerting shoppers to parking areas and store locations. Raphael said the improved signs will help clear up any confusion patrons may have when visiting the mall. He said there definitely needs to be signs indicating where the smaller businesses are located around the shopping center’s promenade, near the Majestic 10 Cinemas.

“It’s not always easy for folks to know there is a whole set of shops 100 yards away (from Best Buy and the Christmas Tree Shops),” Raphael said.

The signs, which would be located along the streets and above sidewalks, would stand 7 feet above the ground. The board also asked Inland to install one temporary directional sign by next week.

The Development Review Board will revisit Maple Tree Place’s proposed master sign plan at 7:30 p.m. on June 22 at Town Hall.