Published DateTILTON — Only a handful of Main Street business owners responded to the invitation of the Board of Selectmen to express their concerns about issues weighing on downtown by attending a public forum last night.
Pat Consentino, who chairs the board, introduced the discussion by noting that the board had received questions and suggestions about parking, signage and trash. She acknowledged that there are inconsistencies in littering and trash ordinance and said that the board is in the process of drafting a simpler, more workable proposal to present to Town Meeting next year. Likewise, the Planning Board intends to propose changes to the signage ordinance.
David Townsend, the owner of Eli's Attic, said that there was no shortage of parking downtown, but there are no signs directing visitors to the free parking lots just off Main Street. At the same time, he suggested that the ordinance unduly restricted signage identifying and promoting businesses. He pointed out that the town hung American flags on Main Street and asked "why not signs advertising business?"
He was echoed by Tom Matthews of TLC Jewelry, who was told by town officials to take down "feather flags" marking his store. He said that the flags had flown for two years without incident and that business shrank 40-percent after they were taken down. "We've put our money here," Matthews told the board, stressing that in advertising the store "we promote Tilton, downtown Tilton."
Consentino explained that the ordinance permits flags announcing that a store is open, but not flags advertising the sale of particular goods. Selectmen Joe Jesseman urged business owners with issues to attend the meetings of the Selectboard and Planning Board and contribute to the revising and drafting of ordinances.
Apart from signage, Matthews was troubled that Main Street is often littered with cigarette butts. "Cigarette butts are everywhere. Hundreds of them. That's all you see. It's horrible." He said he swept, but declared "it's littering" and asked if the police had authority to enforce an ordinance.
Withojut disagreeing Ken Barrett of Brookline Auction Gallery, LLC ventured that 80 percent of the cigarette butts were tossed from passing vehicles. "It would be a helluva flick to reach the sidewalk," countered Matthews, who claimed tenants living on the upper floors were primarily responsible. Several business owners joined Matthews in agreeing to volunteer to do what they could to keep the sidewalks clear of cigarette butts.
Steve Beaulieu and Heidi Carey, owners of the Blooming Iris, said trash collection was their biggest headache, because the ordinance prohibits homeowners and businesses from placing trash at the curb prior to the scheduled day of collection. Beaulieu explained that to ensure the trash is collected early in the morning he must return to downtown after midnight or near dawn to put it on the curb, because like most stores, theirs opens at 10 a.m. Instead, he said he often takes what is not recycled home and puts it in the household trash. Beaulieu suggested that instead of collecting trash on Main Street early in the morning, Bestway Disposal Services be asked to collect it late in the day. Consentino asked Dennis Allen, director of public works, raise the issue with Bestway.
Consentino said that the selectmen looked forward to more meetings with the business community and agreed to make a greater effort to encourage more business owners to attend.