Borough commissioners this week affirmed that street banners hung over Kings Highway cannot include space for business sponsors.
Commissioners Tish Colombi and Ed Borden both supported the decision, while Commissioner Jeff Kasko argued forcefully against it.
The issue arose when Grace Chuch submitted a request to include business sponsors for a rummage sale on a street banner. The church said sponsors told them they would not contribute to the cost of the event without a mention on the street banner, the borough clerk reported in a commissioner's meeting Monday.
Colombi, the mayor, argued that the advertisements— in this case, in a small portion in the corner of the banner—was an affront to the ascetic of Haddonfield. Kasko argued for "finding a way to accommodate people."
"Why is a sponsorship on a banner such a horrible, horrible thing?" he asked Colombi and Borden during a work session meeting Monday.
Borden countered: "Because the space is owned by the town and we control and allow civic organizations to promote events and causes. It's not a public ad space for private business.
"That is governed by an ordinance that we spend a lot of time going through. We decide how businesses can advertise themselves."
Kasko continued to argue for nearly 15 minutes about the need for Haddonfield to work with organizations and businesses. That issue also surfaced recently with two business owners closing their stores and citing strict rules about window displays and the difficulty of advertising their businesses in Haddonfield.
"This is a stupid, stinking banner," Kasko said. "It's tough enough for charity and tough enough for business and we're not making it any easier, we're making it more difficult."
The commissioners decided that any sponsors on existing street banners need to be covered. Colombi said the Haddonfield Historic Preservation Commission agreed with the decision.
The preservation commission does not frequently rule on issues such as banners. It usually presents recommendations to the planning board for external changes to properties in Haddonfield's historic district. The commissioners asked for a commission opinion on the banners.
"We just feel at this point it is not appropriate to put it on a sign," said Lee Albright, chairperson of the Historic Preservation Commission said about business sponsors. "It's the same thing as with signs. The reason we regulate it is to keep a handle on visual distraction and visual clutter. It isn't that we're anti-advertising. The issue is to keep the downtown, or anywhere that you have signs, not as cluttered.
"If you don't regulate it, it would be very easy for advertisers to put up too many signs. It's real easy to lose sight if you're an owner. When we look at it, we just have to make sure there aren't too many. It doesn't let the charm of the downtown, the charm of the buildings, really show."
Albright said she participated in the Historic Preservation Commission discussion about the banners, but did not vote in its decision because she is a member of the vestry of Grace Church.