CHICHESTER BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT MINUTES
MARCH 26, 2008
Case #217-Primax Properties, LLC, Map 3 Lot 43, requesting an Area Variance to Article III, Section G. I, III & IV to permit 2 signs for the property (one free-standing sign/one building sign), totaling 200 sq. ft. with both signs being internally illuminated. Applicant is representing Tractor Supply Co. on property owned by Edward & Vickie O’Brien located on Route 4.
Members Present: Edward Meehan, Chairman; David Dobson; Mark McIntosh; David Hartley; Stephen MacCleery, ex-offico. Ben Brown arrived after public hearing had started and served as a non-voting member.
Also Present: Attorney Richard Uchida, Frank Alexander representing Primax Properties, Edward O’Brien & Jamie Pike.
Mr. Uchida presented the case to the board stating that 5 acres will be subdivided from the 45 acre O’Brien property for the purpose of building a Tractor Supply store on the site. The building will be approximately 19,000 sq. ft. 17,000 sq. ft. will be used for outdoor display. The lot has approx. 335’ of frontage on Route 4. The front of the building will set about 230’ back from the highway. There is a tree line on both sides of the building which will obstruct it from view until you are on top of it. There is a proposed single driveway on the westerly side of the site to accommodate future development. The lot is located halfway up the hill on Route 4 with 3 lanes of traffic going at least 55 mph.
They are proposing a 75 sq. ft. sign which will be 30’ tall, where the ordinance permits 10’. The sign will be placed about 10’ off the right-of-way and 10’ off the driveway. It was clarified that the ordinance is written to allow a sign 10’ higher than the associated building to a maximum of 35’. The building will be about 22’. It was determined that a variance would not be needed for the height of the sign. The 125 sq. ft. sign, which will be on the building, as well as the road sign will be internally illuminated.
Frank Alexander explained that Tractor Supply doesn’t sell tractors. The stores started back in the 1930’s and are the largest retailer of farm, ranch and rural lifestyle products. They carry products from fencing to work clothing. There are 700 stores around the country with several starting up in NH. They hope to start building within the next month.
Mr. Uchida referenced other businesses on Route 4 which were permitted to have signs beyond the ordinance limitation. They ranged from 63 sq. ft. to 232 sq. ft. The town was more lenient because of the tree line, speed of traffic on Route 4, length of frontage & building setback. They meet all those concerns as well as Route 4 now being 3 lanes in this area.
Applicant does not feel they will diminish surrounding property values as their signs are comparable to the signs along Route 4. The signs will help with safety issues, seeing the location of the store since it will sit so far back from the highway, and help with public interest given the size and width of Route 4. They feel this lot is unique in its location and did look at other alternatives such as smaller signs or off premise signs, but they were not viable. The substantial justice to the public outweighs any private burden. This is not contrary to the spirit of the ordinance. The ordinance intends to allow reasonable signage for businesses.
The size of the stores and sign vary according to the size of the lot. They are trying to achieve the same size and scale with their reference to a typical storefront elevation pertaining to the wall sign.
Jamie Pike added that the subdivision of this lot has been approved, the site plan has been accepted and they are now in the public hearing phase. The Planning Board has granted them an additional 16’ of signage which brings them up to 80 sq. ft.
Multi-use businesses don’t have signage this large. It was noted that multi-use business was not defined in zoning.
There was a concern about “corporate” and what they wanted but an understanding as to why the signage is needed for this business.
Years ago when sign ordinance was enacted there were not big box stores in the area. The PB may need to modify zoning to address this issue.
A concern of the sq. ft. size of the building sign was raised but others felt because of the setback of the building from the highway it was justified.
The applicant was asked about the signs being illuminated all night. Mr. Alexander stated that the typical hours of operation were 8 AM – 8 PM and that the signs were on until about an hour after closing. On Sunday they are typically open from 9 AM – 6 PM. The company is very energy conscious. Security lights would be on as well as a few in the building during the night.
The proposed use would not diminish surrounding property values because the signs will be similar in scale & size to others on Route 4.
This would not be contrary to public interest because of the location of the site, the speed of traffic, and the multiple lanes on the highway.
The following special conditions of the property make an area variance necessary in order to allow the development as designed as stated previously, in terms of vehicle speeds, the number of traffic lanes, and the substantial setback place a premium on visibility. The height, size & illumination of the signs provide that visibility.
The same benefit cannot be achieved by some other reasonably feasible method because smaller, non-illuminated signs will be out-of-scale and difficult for traffic to see. Multiple smaller signs will make them more difficult to read, creating more of a hazard.
Substantial justice would be done because there is substantial public benefit and advantage in visible, but not overly obtrusive signs.
The use would not be contrary to the spirit of the ordinance because the town is encouraging commercial development along the commercial corridor while looking out for public safety. The illuminated signs will be off within an hour after operating hours with the exception of security lighting.
David Dobson moved to grant the area variance requested by Primax Properties, LLC to Map 3 Lot 43-1 for a 75 sq. ft. road sign and a 125 sq. ft. building sign to be internally illuminated with the following condition:
The illuminated signs will be turned off/on no more than 1 hour after/before business hours.
For the following reasons:
1. There would not be a diminution in value of surrounding properties as a result of the granting of this variance because the signs will be similar in scale & size to other signs along Dover Road, and thus, will be compatible with the area.
2. The granting of this 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.
3. The following special conditions of the property make an area variance necessary as stated previously in terms of relative vehicle speeds, the growing size of the corridor, including numbers of traffic lanes, combined with the substantial setback place a premium on visibility. The height, size and illumination of the signs provide that visibility.
The same benefit cannot be achieved by some other reasonably feasible method that would not impose an undue financial burden because smaller, non-illuminated signs will be out-of-scale and difficult for traffic to see. Another alternative, multiple smaller signs, will simply make the signs more difficult to read, and create more of a hazard than guidance about the presence of the store.
4. By granting this variance substantial justice would be done 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.
5. The use contemplated by petitioner as a result of obtaining this variance would not be contrary to the spirit of the ordinance because the town is encouraging commercial development along the commercial corridor while looking out for public safety. The illuminated signs will be off within an hour after operating hours with the exception of security lighting.
Mark McIntosh seconded the motion.
VOTE ON MOTION
Mark McIntosh – Yes
Steve MacCleery – Yes
Ed Meehan – Yes
David Dobson – Yes
David Hartley – Yes
Motion carries 5-0.
Following the public hearing the BOA had further discussion about the proper procedure pertaining to an obnoxious use when the potential use is not in existence yet. Selectmen Steve MacCleery explained to the board that at a Selectmen’s meeting it was questioned whether or not the opinion that an applicant could not come before the BOA yet was his or the entire boards. Where was this written in the minutes? The board did recall discussions on this matter but previous minutes did not reflect that specifically.
Chairman Ed Meehan, who spoke with Attorney Bart Mayer, said the BOA can only hear appeals. If a business has been approved by the Planning Board and someone thinks it is an obnoxious use, or will be, they can then appeal that decision to the BOA under an administrative appeal.
Ben Brown added that what they would be doing is appealing the decision of the Planning Board, based on the obnoxious use.
It was clarified, that before Planning Board approval, it would be a waste of an applicant’s time and money to come before the BOA objecting about a business because the board would not be able to hear the case. The business doesn’t have to be in place, just approved by the PB. The appeal needs to have information, facts, figures etc.
It was agreed by the board that no member was acting on their own. Chairman Meehan was concerned about conversations with town council and no minutes to back him up. Would his integrity be questioned?
The BOA has clarified that by previous discussions and confirmation by town council, whom the Chairman had discussions with, and significant additional discussion this evening, the BOA cannot hear appeals until a decision has been made by another town board. This is further backed up by RSA 674:33 Powers of ZBA – Appeal From Administrative Decision.
Holly MacCleery, Secretary
Edward Meehan, Chairman