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Board of Adjustment Minutes 10/16/2013
Chichester Zoning Board of Adjustment
Minutes of Meeting
October 16, 2013

Members Present:  Chairman Mark McIntosh, Benjamin Brown, David Dobson, Richard Millette, Stephen MacCleery Sr., and Secretary Jamie A Pike.

Others Present: Jonathan Halle (applicant), Thomas Houle, Allen Mayville, JoAnn Luikmil, Christine Longver, Faye & Robert McAnney.

Chairman McIntosh called the meeting to order at 7:11pm.

Case #2013-C  Request from Chichester Commons LLC, Map 4 lot 161 for a variance with respect to Article 3 Section 7 (Signs) of the zoning ordinance to permit eight (8) internally illuminated signs totaling 384 square feet (revised to actual proposal), where the ordinance would permit not more than 132 sq./ft. of which only 64 sq./ft. could be internally illuminated.

and Case #2013-D Request from Chichester Commons LLC, Map 4 lot 161A for a variance with respect to Article 3 Section 7 (Signs) of the zoning ordinance to permit eight (7) internally illuminated signs totaling 348 square feet (revised to actual proposal), where the ordinance would permit not more than 132 sq./ft. of which only 64 sq./ft. could be internally illuminated.

Jonathan Halle, owner, was present to speak on the merits of the applications.

Mr. Halle recently purchased Chichester Commons.  Mr. Halle is an architect who designed ProQuip and Concord Hospital East.  The building, located at 114 Dover Road, has sat over 50% unoccupied for some time.  The property was not performing economically.  Part of the purchase agreement was marketing and leasing the property out.  Mr. Halle brought many tenants to the property.  Through this effort, Mr. Halle has gotten to know a lot about of his tenants and other businesses in the Town of Chichester.  These are struggling business and finds that one of the factors causing this is signage and the recognition of the businesses in the building.  Mr. Halle is asking for an increase in the area of signage and illuminated signage.   Mr. Halle presented a plat showing the current condition of the property with the primary building, a garage and a model home.  The model home will be donated to CATCH housing in Concord for a disabled vet.  The home will be moved to a lot in Concord.  The building is currently fully leased.  Renovations have begun, the parking lot has been sealed, the water system is being upgraded and exterior painting has begun.  There are currently 12 signs on the 2 properties totaling more than 250 sq./ft. and are an inconsistent collection of signs by size and design.  Mr. Halle reviewed the existing signs used by the property’s tenants. There is also a 55 sq./ft. directory sign located just east of the building.  There is also a 32 sq./ft. pylon sign and 16 sq./ft. of changeable letter signage on the opposite lot, Lot 114A.

Future plans for the property include an additional building on Lot 114A to mirror that which is located on Lot 114.  

For Lot 114, Mr. Halle is proposing 7 signs each 12’*3’ equaling 36 square feet each for a total of 288 sq./ft. and to also include a standalone pylon sign of 132 sq./ft..  The size requested is consistent with national sign standards for their distance from the road.

For Lot 114A, proposing 6 signs each 12*3 equaling 36 sq./ft. for a total of 252 sq./ft. and to also include a standalone pylon sign of 132 sq./ft..

Mr. Halle presented his arguments justifying the variance.

1. The proposed use would not diminish surrounding property values because the signs will be similar in scale and size to other signs along Dover Road, with some having been granted ZBA approval, and thus will be compatible with the area.  To the extent they are similar to other signs, the applicant feels strongly that no diminution of value is anticipated.

2.  Granting the variance would not be contrary to the public interest because the applicant is seeking reasonable, safe signage to provide visual cues to its customers and other traffic on Dover Road, give (a) the location of the site, (b) the speed of pass-by traffic, (c) the multiple lanes on the highway corridor, (d) the setback of the building almost 90 feet off the road, (e) the scale of the multi-tenant building versus the sign sizes, and (f) the extensive 636 feet of combined frontage.  It is in the public interest to ensure that commercial businesses receive adequate signage – in terms of size, height, and visibility, in light of such factors.

3.  Denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship to the owner because:

(a) the following special conditions of the property make an area variance necessary in order to allow the development as designed because as stated above, the highway corridor – in terms of relative vehicle speeds, the growing size of the corridor including the number of traffic lanes, the lack of turning lane specific to this parcel, combined with the substantial setback of the buildings place a premium on visibility.  The height, size, and illumination of the signs are an attempt to provide visibility.  The applicant is seeking signage of such a scale consistent with national recommended standards.

(b) the same benefit cannot be achieved by some other reasonably feasible method that would impose an undue financial burden because the applicant believes the existing smaller, non-illuminated signs are out of scale and difficult for the traffic to visually recognize, are hard to read and create more of a hazard than guidance about the presence of the multiple retail stores.  The applicant’s professional experience is that larger signs are required for adequate viewing of the multiple retail tenants from Dover Road.  Additional proper sized signs have been identified as a key issue for the financial stability and success of each retail tenant at this location.

4. Granting the variance would do substantial justice because there is substantial public benefit and advantage in visible, but not overly obtrusive signs – both from the perspective of support of the businesses, and providing reasonable notice of this site resulting in safer traffic patterns.  To be weighed against larger, illuminated signs are any detriments suffered by private parties in and around the site.  The applicant is of firm belief that no such detriment will occur.

5.  The use is not contrary to the spirit of the ordinance because the ordinance intends to grant reasonable signage to users.  However, no matter where one is in the CI/MF district, the ordinance, as applied to substantially larger parcels with multiple tenants, having greater frontage, substantial setbacks, traffic speeds, and large abutting highway corridors, receive little relief.  If the intent of the ordinance is reasonable signage, then the applicant, which has a parcel substantially larger and deeper than required by zoning, with multiple tenants is deserving of some flexibility in sign size, height, and illumination.  The applicant believes the master signage package attached is reasonable based on both national standards and professional experience.

Mr. Halle stated that he did consult with Attorney Uchida, whom represented Tractor Supply in 2008. Mr. Halle explained that in comparison with building setback, the proposed signage is 28% smaller than what was permitted at Tractor Supply.  Mr. Halle believes there has been precedent set by way of the previous granted variances.  

Mr. McIntosh– Will the signs on the building(s) be illuminated during closed hours?  Mr. Halle is open to work with the Board to provide a timeframe for turning off the signage.  There will also be no additional parking lot lighting and does not want to hinder the visibility of the night time sky.  The businesses do close at different times, but would like to have all signs turn off at the same time.  Mr. Halle is proposing that the signs be on both a photocell and time clock to accommodate such.  

Mr. Millette – Can the vacancy be directly tied to the lack of available signage?  Mr. Halle – This is hard to determine specifically.  Rent is currently below market rates in the surrounding area.  In order to move forward with the additional building and proposed financing, the rents will have to be higher and require more visibility.

Ms. Longver – Owner of Creative Flowers and Gifts – Been in plaza for a little more than a year.  The first half was rough, most people did not know the business existed.  During this time the building was only partially occupied.  After the sale, customer traffic has picked up and can be tied to the full tenancy of the building.  Signage is a major concern, because the only attraction to the general public is the internal neon signs saying flowers and gifts.  Ms. Longer has tried sandwich board without success.  A feather flag also did not provide success as it was not seen by customers.  This conclusion was based on personal interviews with customers entering the business.  Ms. Longver feels more signage would attract more people to the plaza, and hers is currently the only flower shop in the area.  

Ms. McAnney relayed a personal experience involving this particular plaza. Two years ago, her son was visiting and looking for a place to get a haircut.  He had seen an ad in the paper for Sargent’s Barber Shop.  He had a hard time finding Chichester Commons and the barber shop as the signs were hard to read.

Mr. McAnney – Are the residences nearby affected by the increase in the lighting? Skyglow?  Will the renters of the units have control over the lighting?  Mr. McIntosh explained that these items have been previously addressed, and that lighting control will be added to the ZBA decision as a condition.  

Mr. MacCleery stated that he feels it is up to the Board in the review and make the decision to limit or not limit the times that the signs be on/off etc.

Mr. Brown asked for a copy of the national standards Mr. Halle referred to during his presentation.  The standards were those written by the United State Sign Council (USSC).  The USSC is similar in formation as the International Code Council which regulates building codes.  The USSC has recommendations on items like letter size and sign size which are based on speeds and distance of road frontage, sign position, parallel or perpendicular.  The proposed is less than recommended.  Where the request is for a 132 sq./ft., the code recommends over 200 sq./ft., letter size is recommended to be 14” tall, the proposed is significantly shorter.  The signs will all be consistent in color and font and designed to tie the building together.

Mr. Brown asked what the frontage was for each lot.  The frontage for Lot 161 is 408± feet and the frontage for Lot 161A is 228± feet.

Chairman McIntosh closed the public meeting for public comment and entered into Board discussion.

The Board reviewed the Tractor Supply decision from 2008.

Mr. Brown state that it would find very difficult for him to vote on anything that varies from the Tractor Supply decision.  The cases are not significantly different and certainly opens the door to say that any business on route 4 would get the same thing.  Knowing the ordinance has not been updated since 1988 it behooves the Planning Board to work on an amendment that is suitable.  Mr. MacCleery stated that the lots are in the Commercial Village (CV) District and asked, what design standards are permitted. Mr. Pike stated that signs in the CV District are to be consistent with the associated building in materials and color.  The base and design of the pylon sign as proposed appear to meet conformity of the CV District.  Mr. MacCleery stated that in his opinion; for advertising, and visibility more emphasis should be placed on the pylon sign, where once a customer has entered the plaza, they then seek the individual business.  In the situation of “Lugg” Plaza, individual signs are only visible from one direction due to the placement of the building.  Mr. Millette countered that the pylon signs are too busy to read everything and comprehend their content, and the individual signs mean more to the driver.  Such as Epsom Village Shoppes, the pylon sign is too busy to comprehend where the individual signs attract you to the business you are seeking.  Mr. MacCleery rebutted where at Industrial Drive in Manchester, you typically seek the pylon for a primary address then once inside the plaza you seek the particular business.  Mr. Millette asked; what is in the ordinance about light pollution of signs. Mr. Brown stated that possibly a visor type shield could be used to reduce or eliminate any sky glow.  Mr. Halle stated that he felt that the issues being raised are on the onus of the Planning Board and are not specific to the requests being made.  Mr. Brown asked Mr. Mayville about the Planning Board discussion on the subject.  Mr. Mayville stated that typically the Planning Board discussion has been about signs that are illuminated by external means.  Mr. Brown felt that the case should not be handled any differently than Tractor Supply  and that the reasons for the decision would be the same as it is the same road, similar traffic and other factors.  There may be discussion on particular square footage specific to the property.  Mr. Millette stated that the difference here is the distance of the building to the road.  Mr. McIntosh looks at the total picture of total square footage of 420 where 132 is allowed.  Mr. Brown stated Pylon is 132 sq./ft. At this time it was determined the actual signage requested is 384 sq./ft. and not the 288 sq./ft. as stated in the application.  Mr. Millette discussed the ordinance and what it allows by exception of the Planning Board.  It appears that the ordinance with allowances would permit 172 sq./ft. with the traffic patterns and multi units in consideration. Mr. Millette also noted that not more than 64 sq./ft. is allowed to be internally illuminated per the ordinance creating a substantial conflict between the ordinance and the request.  Mr. Brown asked; can the ZBA restrict the size to a limit other than what is requested.  Mr. MacCleery stated that yes, the Board could grant a variance for less than the request.  It was noted that; looking at minutes of the Tractor Supply case, the arguments mirror each other. Tractor Supply is set back over 200 feet and is bounded by forested lots limiting visibility, where Chichester Commons is visible from both directions and not screened by abutting properties.  The speed, size of road, traffic are similar and/or the same as Tractor Supply, the primary difference being the visibility of the site/building.  

Mr. Halle offered the following point.  The Board needs to look at the building sign and its relation to setback.  The Tractor Supply sign is 140 sq./ft. at 200 feet and the individual Chichester Commons signs are 36 sq./ft. to 90 feet.  With this ratio, the individual building signs could be as large as 63 sq./ft. where the proposed is 36 sq./ft. or 43% less in size.  Mr. Halle requests that the Board look at the signs individually per business versus as a total for the site.  Where the ordinance allows for 12 sq./ft. for each business there are currently signs at 12 sq./ft. that can physically not be read due to their size.  Ms. McAnney stated that these businesses are struggling and visibility is what is required and each business deserves the same individually what others are allowed.  Mr. Halle stated that if the signs were constructed as recommended by USSC, the signage would be more than double what is proposed.  Ms. Longver expressed her concern that Tractor Supply is a national chain with common recognition, where signage and visibility is more crucial to the small business.  Mr. Brown feels that as the 7 individual business were permitted; they each deserve the right to be identified.  Mr. Brown also stated that it appears that the ordinance is against multiple businesses as the individual business signs must come out of the total for the site.  Mr. Houle stated that he feels the proportions of the signs proposed are satisfactory and that the ordinance is in need of update and currently be working on.  

Mr. Brown stated that the primary difference between Tractor Supply and Chichester Commons is one building with one business versus one building with 7 businesses. Each sign, relative to proportion, is less than Tractor Supply, it is the cumulative signage that makes it appear out of alignment.  The ordinance is specifically against multi-use businesses where it allows more signs but not additional square footage.  If the Town permits multi businesses than we should be looking at one sign one business.  Looking at a per business basis each business is being allotted 55 square feet of signage under the proposal.  There was much discussion about restrictions to design and consistency among the signs.  Mr. Halle stated that he prefers 7 signs of a particular size and design versus multiple inconsistent designs.  Mr. Brown looks at this as an opportunity to also provide the Planning Board some direction in the drafting of any new ordinance.  Mr. Mayville stated that the backbone and spirit of small town America is small businesses like these; if they need more signage then we should let them have it to help their business.  Change is happening.  Mr. McIntosh wants to see restrictions to consistency of design and layout.  

The following findings were made:

1.      Granting variance WOULD NOT be contrary to the public interest because of the location of the site, the speed of pass-by traffic, and the multiple lanes on the highway corridor. It is in the public interest to ensure that commercial businesses receive adequate signage in terms of size, height and visibility.  

2.      The spirit of the ordinance WOULD be observed because the Town is encouraging commercial development along the commercial corridor while looking out for public safety.

3.      Granting the variance WOULD do substantial justice because there is substantial public benefit and advantage in visible, but not overly obtrusive signs; both from the perspective of support of this business and providing reasonable notice of this site.

4.      The values of the surrounding properties WOULD NOT be diminished because the signs will be similar in scale and size to other signs along Dover Road, and thus, will be compatible in the area.

5.      Owing to special conditions of the property that distinguish it from other properties in the area, denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship because:

1.      There IS NOT a fair and substantial relationship between the general public purpose of the ordinance provision and the specific application of that provision to the property because relative vehicle speeds, the growing size of the corridor, including number of traffic lanes, combined with the setback place a premium on visibility and the ordinance is intended to provide adequate signage and visibility to ensure the economic viability of the associated business.
2.      The proposed use IS a reasonable one because the size, design, illumination and scale of the proposed signage is consistent with other properties along the corridor and it was found that the ordinance as written is not favorable to multi-tenant buildings in a manner consistent with singular tenant structures.


Being no further discussion, a motion was made by Mr. Brown and seconded by Mr. Dobson to GRANT the variance request for Map 4 Lot 161, Case #2013-C; in that each individual building mounted sign shall not exceed 36 square feet per business and be similar in size, design and color scheme and the pylon type sign shall not exceed 132 square feet and that all such signage is allowed to be internally illuminated.  And further, that any illuminated signage shall be turned off not more than one hour after; and turned on not more than one hour before each individual business’s hours and the pylon type sign shall be allowed to follow the same hours of the first opening and the last closing business.
Roll Call Vote – Millette, Nay; Dobson, Aye; McIntosh, Aye; Brown, Aye  Motion passes.

A motion was made by Mr. Brown and seconded by Mr. McIntosh to GRANT the variance request for Map 4 Lot 161-A, Case #2013-D; in that each individual building mounted sign shall not exceed 36 square feet per business and be similar in size, design and color scheme and the pylon type sign shall not exceed 132 square feet and that all such signage is allowed to be internally illuminated.  And further, that any illuminated signage shall be turned off not more than one hour after; and turned on not more than one hour before each individual business’s hours and the pylon type sign shall be allowed to follow the same hours of the first opening and the last closing business.
Roll Call Vote – Millette, Nay; Dobson, Aye; McIntosh, Aye; Brown, Aye  Motion passes.

The Board, in review of the Tractor Supply decision, shall refer to the Selectmen for enforcement of the lighting provisions contained therein.

Chairman McIntosh adjourned the meeting at 9:49pm.  

Respectfully submitted,




Jamie A Pike, Secretary


                                                                Not approved until signed.


Mark McIntosh, Chairman

Town of Chichester
Zoning Board of Adjustment
54 Main Street
Chichester, New Hampshire 03258
(603) 798-5350   Fax (603)798-3170




Notice of Decision

You are hereby notified that the request from Chichester Commons LLC, Map 4 lot 161 for a variance with respect to Article 3 Section 7 (Signs) of the zoning ordinance to permit eight (8) internally illuminated signs totaling 384 square feet (revised to actual proposal), where the ordinance would permit not more than 132 sq./ft. of which only 64 sq./ft. could be internally illuminated has been GRANTED, based upon the following findings, by the affirmative vote of three members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

6.      Granting variance WOULD NOT be contrary to the public interest because of the location of the site, the speed of pass-by traffic, and the multiple lanes on the highway corridor. It is in the public interest to ensure that commercial businesses receive adequate signage in terms of size, height and visibility.  

7.      The spirit of the ordinance WOULD be observed because the Town is encouraging commercial development along the commercial corridor while looking out for public safety.

8.      Granting the variance WOULD do substantial justice because there is substantial public benefit and advantage in visible, but not overly obtrusive signs; both from the perspective of support of this business and providing reasonable notice of this site.

9.      The values of the surrounding properties WOULD NOT be diminished because the signs will be similar in scale and size to other signs along Dover Road, and thus, will be compatible in the area.

10.     Owing to special conditions of the property that distinguish it from other properties in the area, denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship because:

3.      There IS NOT a fair and substantial relationship between the general public purpose of the ordinance provision and the specific application of that provision to the property because relative vehicle speeds, the growing size of the corridor, including number of traffic lanes, combined with the setback place a premium on visibility and the ordinance is intended to provide adequate signage and visibility to ensure the economic viability of the associated business.
4.      The proposed use IS a reasonable one because the size, design, illumination and scale of the proposed signage is consistent with other properties along the corridor and it was found that the ordinance as written is not favorable to multi-tenant buildings in a manner consistent with singular tenant structures.

This grant of variance shall also be conditioned upon the following:

Each individual building mounted sign shall not exceed 36 square feet per business and be similar in size, design and color scheme and the pylon type sign shall not exceed 132 square feet and that all such signage is allowed to be internally illuminated.  And further, that any illuminated signage shall be turned off not more than one hour after; and turned on not more than one hour before each individual business’s hours and the pylon type sign shall be allowed to follow the same hours of the first opening and the last closing business.

______________________________________
Mark McIntosh, Chairman

______________________________________
Date

Note:  The selectmen, any party to the action or any person directly affected has a right to appeal this decision.  See New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, Chapter 677, available at the Chichester Town Offices, 54 Main Street.  This notice has been placed on file and made available for public inspection in the records of the ZBA on the ________ day of ________, 2013.  Copies of this notice have been distributed to: the applicant, Planning Board, Board of Selectmen, and Town Clerk.



_____________________________________
Jamie A Pike, Secretary

Town of Chichester
Zoning Board of Adjustment
54 Main Street
Chichester, New Hampshire 03258
(603) 798-5350   Fax (603)798-3170




Notice of Decision

You are hereby notified that the request from Chichester Commons LLC, Map 4 lot 161A for a variance with respect to Article 3 Section 7 (Signs) of the zoning ordinance to permit eight (7) internally illuminated signs totaling 348 square feet (revised to actual proposal), where the ordinance would permit not more than 132 sq./ft. of which only 64 sq./ft. could be internally illuminated has been GRANTED, based upon the following findings, by the affirmative vote of three members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

11.     Granting variance WOULD NOT be contrary to the public interest because of the location of the site, the speed of pass-by traffic, and the multiple lanes on the highway corridor. It is in the public interest to ensure that commercial businesses receive adequate signage in terms of size, height and visibility.  

12.     The spirit of the ordinance WOULD be observed because the Town is encouraging commercial development along the commercial corridor while looking out for public safety.

13.     Granting the variance WOULD do substantial justice because there is substantial public benefit and advantage in visible, but not overly obtrusive signs; both from the perspective of support of this business and providing reasonable notice of this site.

14.     The values of the surrounding properties WOULD NOT be diminished because the signs will be similar in scale and size to other signs along Dover Road, and thus, will be compatible in the area.

15.     Owing to special conditions of the property that distinguish it from other properties in the area, denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship because:

5.      There IS NOT a fair and substantial relationship between the general public purpose of the ordinance provision and the specific application of that provision to the property because relative vehicle speeds, the growing size of the corridor, including number of traffic lanes, combined with the setback place a premium on visibility and the ordinance is intended to provide adequate signage and visibility to ensure the economic viability of the associated business.
6.      The proposed use IS a reasonable one because the size, design, illumination and scale of the proposed signage is consistent with other properties along the corridor and it was found that the ordinance as written is not favorable to multi-tenant buildings in a manner consistent with singular tenant structures.

This grant of variance shall also be conditioned upon the following:

Each individual building mounted sign shall not exceed 36 square feet per business and be similar in size, design and color scheme and the pylon type sign shall not exceed 132 square feet and that all such signage is allowed to be internally illuminated.  And further, that any illuminated signage shall be turned off not more than one hour after; and turned on not more than one hour before each individual business’s hours and the pylon type sign shall be allowed to follow the same hours of the first opening and the last closing business.

______________________________________
Mark McIntosh, Chairman

______________________________________
Date

Note:  The selectmen, any party to the action or any person directly affected has a right to appeal this decision.  See New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, Chapter 677, available at the Chichester Town Offices, 54 Main Street.  This notice has been placed on file and made available for public inspection in the records of the ZBA on the ________ day of ________, 2013.  Copies of this notice have been distributed to: the applicant, Planning Board, Board of Selectmen, and Town Clerk.



_____________________________________
Jamie A Pike, Secretary





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