Page 12 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • March 25, 2009 Franklin Lakes Realtors want borough to relax sign ordinance by Frank J. McMahon Several Realtors attended a recent Franklin Lakes Council work session to lobby for a relaxation of the borough’s sign ordinance to make it easier to direct people to homes that are holding Open Houses for prospective buyers. Tamar “Tommi” Joffe, the manager of the Weichert Realtors office in Franklin Lakes, told Mayor Maura DeNicola and the council that she represents about 3,000 Bergen County Realtors who are concerned about sign ordinances that prevent them from putting up signs to notify the public of Open Houses that are scheduled in the borough, including the directional signs to point people toward those homes. During an Open House, a Realtor permits the public to tour a house that is for sale without making an appointment. Commenting on the difficult housing market, Joffe advised that it currently takes 26 months to sell a house in the borough. She said there were 115 listings of homes for sale at the time of the meeting, and only four listings had gone to contract in the previous 30 days. “The bottom line is that Realtors can help this economic situation by selling houses,” Joffe said. “Realtors do not need more obstacles in their path. My job is to help people buy and sell homes and thus stimulate the economic situation out there. Some towns have restrictions on Open House directional signs and these restrictions inhibit the ability of homeowners and Realtors to expose those homes. We Realtors would like to see this particular obstacle removed so we can do our job we are supposed to do.” Joffe reported that in 2008, 93 percent of house buyers said Open Houses were a useful information source and 56 percent of the house buyers in the state identified Open Houses as a tool used in the home purchase process while 10 percent identified Open House and yard signs as the way they found the home they eventually purchased. In Franklin Lakes, where no signs are permitted, Joffe said there were 68 house contracts closed during 2008, while in Ridgewood, which permits the signs, there were 233 closings, and in Mahwah, which also permits the signs, there were 307 while there were 105 closings in Oakland, which also permits the signs. She handed out packets containing facts about Open Houses and a copy of a November 2008 letter from Bruce S. Shapiro, a legislative researcher and local government coordinator for the New Jersey Association of Realtors to Mayor DeNicola in which he described the benefits of permitting these signs in the borough on a temporary basis to promote Open Houses. The packet also contained a copy of a sign ordinance adopted by the Township of Hillsborough in Somerset County in September 2008, and a December 2008 letter from the mayor of the Borough of Metuchen, which advised the NJAR that Open House signs would be permitted in the borough between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., but only on the day of the event. The current problem in selling homes is not just the fault of the borough’s sign ordinance, Joffe acknowledged, but she said Realtors have always had obstacles in Franklin Lakes and less homes are sold in the borough than in other upscale towns because they cannot use directional signs. “We just don’t need another obstacle to sell a house,” she said. Councilman Michael Friscia asked if the intent was to make the homes more attractive to people who already know they are for sale, or to direct them to the homes. Joffe responded, “Both. We want to get everybody to homes to get the economy going.” When asked by the council what she was looking for specifically, Joffe said Realtors would like to be able to put out “sandwich” type directional signs in the borough’s right-of-way to point people towards the homes that are for sale one hour before the Open House begins. The signs would be taken down before the end of the Open House. Councilman Steve Marcus told Joffe the statistical data she provided is helpful, but the council would have to discuss her request to determine if the borough’s residents want these signs to be allowed within the borough. Purim parade Barnert Temple’s Preschool kids dress in colorful costumes to celebrate Purim. Besides a joyful Purim parade, the kids were joined by their parents for a flour-filled baking of hamantashen to share with family and friends. For more information about the event or about Barnert Temple’s Preschool, contact Alice Berdy, at (201) 848-1027.