Shores council looks at modified open-house sign ordinance

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 23, 2013

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Real estate salespeople might be able to better direct prospective homeowners to residences that are for sale in time for the spring housing season.

During a Jan. 15 City Council meeting, officials again discussed possibly amending the city’s sign ordinance to allow open-­house directional signs for a limited time period on Sunday afternoons. Although some residents have voiced opposition to the proposal, fearing it might negatively impact the community’s beauty and property values, real estate professionals have been asking the council to consider a change in their rules so that they can better advertise properties for sale and point to the location of such homes.

Ambassador Committee Chair D.J. Boehm said there were only about 15 homes on the market in the city as of the meeting — a reduction of roughly 50 percent from last February.

“There are not nearly as many homes for sale,” she told the council.

Still, real estate professionals say they’re at a disadvantage in the Shores because the city only allows residents to have a single “For Sale” sign on their own front lawn.

Chace Wakefield of Bolton-Johnston Associates of Grosse Pointe is the current vice president of the Grosse Pointe Board of Realtors. He’s also a Shores resident, so, he said, “Of course I want to see the Shores thrive.”

Based on feedback from real estate sales professionals and residents, he said the Ambassador Committee is proposing a compromise to an earlier sign ordinance amendment under review. Wakefield said they’re asking for signs only on Sundays from 1:30-4:30 p.m. — a reduction from the original six-hour window they had been seeking — and restricting the signs strictly to the directional arrow variety, to guide potential buyers to the homes in question. Real estate salespeople would be required to obtain permission from homeowners before they could post signs on private property, and no signs would be placed in the Lake Shore medians, he said. The city would be able to assess whatever fines or penalties officials deemed appropriate for any real estate salespeople who didn’t comply with the rules, including sign removal.

“I would like to see us on equal footing with the other Pointes. … I want to see families moving in,” Wakefield said.

City Council member Bruce Bisballe noted that the property between the sidewalk and the street is private property, even though it’s subject to easement rules, meaning that real estate salespeople would need permission from homeowners for essentially any sign they hoped to put up.

Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce Chair Cathy Champion, a Grosse Pointe Farms resident and associate broker with Bolton-Johnston Associates of Grosse Pointe, also urged Shores officials to consider lifting the sign ban. In a letter to the council that she wrote because she was out of town on the date of the meeting, she said the other Pointes all allow such signs.

“Open house signage attracts people and is a positive representation of the housing that is available in the community,” Champion wrote. “Buyers find open houses in a variety of ways. … Some people who aren’t even thinking about buying a house do so as a result of going to see an open house.”

The two-time Grosse Pointe Board of Realtors president said she has more than 37 years of experience in real estate.

Shores resident Vito Cusenza, a real estate salesperson, said three to four directional signs are typical.

“You really need to have some on Lake Shore,” he told the council, saying that if that wasn’t permitted, “you might as well not allow them at all.” Lake Shore is one of the few major streets that runs through the Shores, which is almost exclusively residential.

A real estate professional in attendance at the meeting concurred with her colleagues.

“Having an open house sign … helps sell the house,” she told the council. “It improves the amount of people that come to see your home.”

Boehm said new Shores homeowners have been spending considerable sums making improvements to their properties — something that’s good for the whole city. She’s among those hoping city officials will make it easier to bring new residents to the Shores in the months to come.

The City Council could be considering a proposed sign-ordinance amendment as soon as its next meeting, slated to take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 19 in City Council chambers. For more information, visit the Shores’ website at; meeting agendas typically are posted three days before the meeting date.