By Katherine Wright and Tristan Manaloto
Bellport Village has two new residents.
At the corner of South Country Road and Country Club Road stands a new 7-foot-tall white, wooden post with 3-inch-high, dark blue letters carved down its side. A second similar post made of azek, a polymer based material, occupies the intersection of South Country Road and North Howells Point Road.
These two vertical markers, erected in late August, are street signs, prototypes of a design that Bellport Village Board is considering to replace the village’s decaying, horizontal, green and white metal signposts.
Half of Bellport’s 80 street signs need replacing, Ray Fell, the village’s mayor, said. The metal poles holding up the signs have rusted at the bottom, and the white lettering is rubbing away in places. “The residents came up with the idea of going back to the street signs that we had years ago and we are looking at that as an option,” Fell said. But driving past, locals said, it’s hard to read what the new signs say.
In a discussion between Bellport Village Residents in their group on Facebook 11 out of the 15 respondents expressed disapproval of the vertical prototype signs, and six village residents have written in to bellport.com, a local paperless newspaper, to voice objections to the potential sign design change.
Two of the top concerns raised about the vertical signs relate to visibility and readability.
“My problem is that reading vertically is so much trickier,” Benjamin Hawkins, who grew up in Bellport Village and bought a house there last year, said. Hawkins is also worried that the signs will get covered by snow in the winter and that the bottom letters of the street names could be impossible to read.
The issues of readability and visibility were echoed by two designers, Julio Lio and James Kho, contacted to comment on the functionality of the vertical road sign’s design.
Lio thinks the design is confusing. With street names on all four sides, the driver may find it hard to distinguish which street they are travelling on and which street they are intersecting, he said.
Kho agrees. “I believe that they fall short of serving their original and more important function as easy-access tools for drivers and pedestrians alike,” Kho said. “”Form follows function” should reign true in most cases and safety shouldn’t be sacrificed for show.”
But not everyone dislikes the signs. Around 20 people have spoken directly to Mayor Fell after seeing the vertical prototype signposts, with just over half saying they liked them, he said.
“I love the white posts,” Lauren Varney, who has lived in Bellport Village for nearly 30 years, said. “I am in favor of replacing all the green ones with the new white posts.”
The suggestion for the vertical sign design came from the board of Bellport Village Program Fund (BVPF), a charitable organization that helps fund community projects.
“We went to the Village Board and told them look if they are going to be replacing street signs, why don’t they think about doing something other than these ugly metal ones that are out there,” Michael Foster, who sits on BVPF’s board, said.
Replacing all of the village’s signs is expected to take 5 years and cost between $40,000 and $80,000 depending on which sign design is ultimately picked and who is tasked with making the signs. The two vertical prototype signs each cost $780 to make and were paid for by BVPF, Foster said. (The cost per sign could be halved if the village’s highway department makes the signs, Fell said.)
BPVF has offered to fund half of the cost of making and installing a first wave of vertical white posts, which, it is proposed, would involve replacing 30 of the village’s signs. “We are prepared to help defray some of the costs to the taxpayers because we really think this is a cool thing to do,” Foster said. BVPF has not committed any further funding for the other 50 signs, or to funding horizontal metal signs should that design be chosen.
The final decision on which design to move forward with will likely be made next spring, Fell said. “We’ll look over the winter and see how both the signs winter and then make a decision on what to do.” Village residents will be able to raise their opinions when it goes on the board meeting agenda, and can also send comments directly to the village board.
“Who knows maybe between now and the spring someone will come up with another idea for what would look nice in the village,” Fell said. “At this point we are open to suggestions.”