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ZBA Grants Mercury Properties’ Request For Sign Ordinance Variance

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Sulphur Springs Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals Tuesday evening granted Mercury Properties LLC request for a sign ordinance variance, welcomed the newest board member and selected officers.

Jennifer Graham, Sulphur Springs Community Development Department administrative assistant, issued the oath of office to Twila Gill during the 5:30 p.m. meeting on March 16, conducted via Zoom. Gill thanked the board members and said she is excited for the opportunity to serve and ready to get started.

The ZBA members selected Brad Burgin to once again serve as chairman and Matt Johnson as vice-chairman of the group.

Mercury Properties LLC requested that the ZBA approve a 2-foot height variance to the 8 foot sign ordinance height limit to allow Mercury Properties to construct a 10-foot tall multi-business sign at the southwest corner of 301 Gilmer Street, part of the J&B Business Complex that connects to South Davis Street. The sign would advertise the businesses located at 312 South Davis St.

Kayla Price Mitchell

While an 8-foot sign would conform to the sign ordinance, the bottom half of the sign would not be visible to traffic on Davis Street due to vehicles parked in the lot at 312 South Davis and along the drive at 301 Gilmer Street, according to Kayla Price Mitchell for Mercury Properties. The listings for the two top tenants would be visible but those listed on the two lower parts of the sign would be obscured by SUVs or trucks parked on either side of it. Not only would this create a hardship for the businesses, it would create a safety hazard for customers searching for the businesses located at 312 South Davis as well as other drivers on the very busy, active stretch of roadway.

While the request is for a variance to the allowable height, the new sign would still be shorter than the sign across the street from 312 South Davis Street and shorter than other signs located a bit farther north on Davis Street, the applicant noted in the variance request.

Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski noted that city staff sent 14 certified letters to residents and businesses within 200 feet of the property notifying them of the request. The city received only two responses, both in favor of the sign.

Mercury Properties requested a 2-foot height variance to the sign ordinance at the southwest end of 301 Gilmer St., part of the J&B Business Complex, that
connects to South Davis Street

Niewiadomski reported the sign would meet the other ordinance requirements. The ordinance allows multiple business signs to be 45-square feet in size, with a 5 foot setback from the right-of-way and an 8-foot height limitation. The goal of the ordinance is to ensure safety, communication efficacy, and environmental quality and preservation.

The sign would be backlit, so an electrical permit and a sign permit are required to install it, according to Niewiadomski. As far as the ordinance requirement that the sign conform to the environment, Price said the desire is to “get the nicest looking sign” possible that fits the area.

The community development director said city staff recommended approval of the sign, under a clause in the ordinance allowing “meritorious exceptions.”

“Based on the existing site layout and parking arrangement, a shorter sign would affect communications efficiency and potentially safety. Elevating the bottom of the sign a little higher will provide better automobile visibility along Davis Street entering and leaving the site. The request is reasonable with the context of the site and surrounding signage in the area. The request will not further impact or overload the public’s capacity to receive information by distracting and obstructing driver’s vision or interfering with the communications efficiency, thus protecting the intent of the ordinance,” Niewiadomski noted.

The ZBA approved the request, granting the variance for auto safety as well as visibility.

Survey of J&B Business Complex, for which a sign ordinance variance was requested.

Author: Faith Huffman

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