Spring has finally sprung in Greenwich, and the daffodils, crocuses and forsythia are blooming across town.
Not a minute too soon.
In the village of Old Greenwich some flowers are creating a controversy. The town received a complaint about an artificial flower display around the display windows at Abigail Fox Designs at 187 Sound Beach Ave, and a violation was issued. The popular shop carries jewelry, gifts, furniture, artwork and vintage items here in town and at their new Nantucket location.
Unfortunately for the shop, the large floral swags are considered an illegal sign, as opposed to holiday garlands and wreaths that are considered temporary.
Town planner Katie DeLuca explained on Friday morning the reason for the violation.
“We have zoning regulations that were approved through a public process that clearly outline how the community has collectively agreed we want our signage and commercial spaces to function and look,” she said. “Those regulations specify that signage is for wayfinding only. Banners, streamers, marquees, portable signage, and other eye catching devises are prohibited.”
DeLuca continued. “Most importantly, however, there is a process that has to be followed to determine compliance and to help ensure our public spaces are inviting and safe. We encourage business owners to always check in with the Town before making any investments so as to ensure compliance before they purchase.”
According to the petition, a neighbor complained to the town about the flowers and the shop owner was told that for her to get approval, she would have to apply to the Architectural Review Committee, but that the request would most likely not be approved.
The petition argues that the flowers don’t obstruct the sidewalk or protrude, and that they are hung no differently than holiday garlands they display annually for 15 years, and the owner, Abigail Fox, was unaware of having to apply for any type of approval.
Ms Fox said the pandemic and supply chain issues have created challenges for her small retail business.
“Not only has our store traffic tremendously decreased, the supply chains of all our vendors have been affected,” she said. “We now pay up to 20% increased surcharges to receive products.”
Ms Fox employs locals both full and part time. The business supports local non profits through donations. Further, she said the floral display was expensive.
“But, in order to continue being successful, we need to think differently and do more to get people shopping in our store. We were inspired by restaurants and buildings all over New York City and London England who have installed similar gorgeous flower installations.”
Additionally, the petition points out that the town has done a great deal to support local restaurants. Retailers have had a tough two years.
“On a human level, independent of the economics, it will be difficult to continue to do business without the support of our local community and the town,” Fox writes in the petition. “Flowers make people happy. They make people smile and they are a sign of hope. This was our main goal, to make people smile. Especially with everything going on in the world.”
“All day long people come into the store and tell us how beautiful they are, how they make them smile when they drive through town and see them,” she added.
Comments on the petition are in favor of the flower display.
“This is ridiculous! It’s beautification for the purpose of attracting local customers to a small business trying to stay afloat in these trying times,” wrote Jason Hoffmeister, adding, “Everyone does it with each holiday season & I see it no differently.”
“As a former Mayor of a Historic Town this seems to be very trivial! These flowers are absolutely beautiful and are pertinent to your beautification of the town,” wrote Mary-Ann Keller-Pile.
“This is unbelievable to me. It is OK to put up Holiday decorations in December, but wrong to put up beautiful flowers in the Spring? Why?” asked Beverly Hartley.
One doesn’t have to look far for other examples of artificial flowers. They are also considered signs and are illegal.