Selectmen approve sign enforcement action against Black Diamond Steakhouse
Bethel selectmen Monday voted unanimously to pursue enforcement action against the Black Diamond Steakhouse on the Sunday River Road for a violation of the town’s sign ordinance.
Town Manager Jim Doar said the restaurant had received approval for an on-premise sign, but since then a new section, with changeable letters, has been added underneath the sign. That section has not been approved by the Planning Board, he said.
Doar said a letter was sent to owner Ron Savage Sept. 14, asking him to come to the next Planning Board meeting (Oct. 10) to get approval for the addition, but he did not attend. He also missed the deadline to get on the agenda for the Oct. 24 meeting, Doar said.
Selectman Don Bennett asked if there were currently other cases of sign violations in which sections had been added to signs. Doar said he was not aware of any.
Following the vote, the next step will be a notice of violation stating that the sign section must be removed in 30 days, said Doar. Enforcement action can progress to a violation letter from the town attorney and then to court action, he said.
“Our goal is to get people in compliance – we’re not interested in writing violations,” said Doar. “Hopefully he will come to the Planning Board. He missed the deadline for next week, but the board is not really rigid on that.”
Earlier this year, prompted by what they said was their inability to adequately advertise their restaurant, Savage and his brother Rick circulated a petition calling for a vote to repeal the current sign ordinance at the annual town meeting in June.
But selectmen changed the warrant article to instead propose the establishment of an ordinance reform committee, and voters approved it. Savage was named to the committee.
At Monday’s meeting Bennett said Savage had mentioned at a recent sign committee meeting that he needed to go to the Planning Board regarding the addition to his sign.
Doar added later that other members of the sign committee had expressed concern that all members be in compliance with the current ordinance.
Selectman Peter Southam asked Doar if two Black Diamond signs located on Route 2 were allowed to be there.
Doar said the signs were “fine.” He said the Maine Department of Transportation had earlier told Savage the word “steakhouse” could not be on the signs. Savage removed it, leaving two other words that had been put on the signs: “Farm Stand.” Doar said the signs are now allowable seasonal agricultural signs. Under a similar town regulation on such signs, he said, “they’re entitled to advertise until Nov. 1.”
Southam also asked about a Hummer parked beside the Parkway with Black Diamond decals on it.
Doar said it is legal for a registered vehicle to display such signs. He said the Hummer did not have license plates displayed.
Response to sign vote
Savage, contacted Tuesday, said that after he received the Sept. 14 letter regarding his on-premise sign, he talked to the town’s code enforcement officer about what he needed to do. Savage pointed out two similar signs at nearby businesses, he said, and asked for copies of their applications to use as a guide.
But, said Savage, the CEO did not get back to him. Savage then left for an eight-day trip to England, from which he only recently returned. He said he would submit the application to the Planning Board when he gets the paperwork completed.
“They’re just targeting us. It’s no big deal, but that’s what they are and we don’t care,” said Savage. “It is what it is. They’ve always done it, and they’re always going to do it, and that’s just the way it is. If they weren’t so anti-business, they’d maybe try to work with people.
“They’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Jim Doar’s got an agenda, and he’s just trying to run through with it, and he can do what he wants to do.”