Last week, the Ocean View Board of Adjustment heard seven variance requests from representatives from Royal Farms, who hope to erect a gas station between the CVS Pharmacy currently under construction at 54 Atlantic Avenue and the Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church cemetery.
“That’s a very small property for that many signs,” said Board Member Susan Kerwin of the application.
K. William Scott spoke on behalf of the Timmons family, which owns the property, and requested that the property be granted approval for a 16-foot pylon sign to be located at the corner of Central and Atlantic Avenues that would display fuel prices.
The town code, from which property owners may request variances, permits only one detached sign on a lot or undivided parcel of land. Additionally, it limits the size of a sign to 24 square feet on a single side or 48 square feet in total on a lot with one or two businesses.
“The existence of the sign is a variance in and of itself. It does meet the front setback, does not meet rear- or side-yard variance because of the shape of the lot,” explained Scott.
Scott said the internally-lit LED sign wouldn’t shine off of the property and noted that the placement of the sign in the setback was done intentionally.
“CVS has a sign on the opposite side of property,” he said, noting that the businesses wouldn’t want the signs to be on top of each other. “We’re requesting to place it at the intersection, where you need to make people aware of the entrance as they’re traveling.”
Kerwin asked Scott how the sign would compare to the CVS sign that was recently granted a variance from the board. Scott said that the CVS sign is about twice as big in area, and that the Royal Farms sign would only advertise the name and the prices of two grades of gas.
Board Member Eugene Brendel made a motion to deny approval of the sign. His motion was not seconded. Tom Sylvia motioned to reduce the permitted height from 16 feet to 15 feet, which was approved by the board with a vote of 3 to 1, with Brendel opposed.
Scott also requested a variance to permit the placement of four wall signs that would exceed the permissible number of one wall sign, and all of which would exceed the maximum 10 square feet of signage. Two of the signs would be placed on the on the building, and two would be on the canopy for the gas pumps.
Scott requested a variance for a 31.87-square-foot, internally-lit sign to be placed on the gable above the store on the north side.
“To make the sign usable, we’ve expanded it so you can actually see it. The size of that sign is slightly smaller than the wall sign approved for the CVS. You’ve got to be able to see it so you know where you’ll be walking to get into the store,” he said.
He also requested a 32.54-square-foot, internally-lit sign to be placed on the west wall of the building.
“Why would you need another wall sign on a building facing that sign?” asked Kerwin. “It’s a very distracting intersection for traffic.”
Scott requested that the board note that none of the requested signage has any moving message boards, unlike the signs for CVS, and the nearby WSFS bank and Mariner’s Bethel church.
In addition, he requested two 32.54-square-foot, unlit signs to be placed on the canopy facing a street — Atlantic Central or West Avenues.
“They would be directing people where the gas pumps are, as opposed to where the store is,” explained Scott.
The variance request for a wall sign to be placed on the gable, facing Route 26, was approved by the board with a vote of 3 to 1, with Brendel again in opposition.
The variance request for a wall sign facing west toward the cemetery was denied by the board with a unanimous vote.
The request for a sign on the gas canopy facing west was approved with a vote of 3-1, with Brendel opposed. The requested canopy sign facing east was unanimously denied.
Scott also requested two detached direction signs reading “RoFo,” measuring 8 square feet each, to be placed by the entrances of Atlantic and West Avenues. The signs would be internally lit by LED lights.
Public Works Director Charlie McMullen stated that the sign on Atlantic would encroach two feet into the required 12-foot setback, while the West Avenue sign would encroach 11 feet into the same setback. He noted it would also encroach 24 feet into the required 30-foot setback from any other street or property line.
He added that the code limits each business on a multi-business site to one 10-square-foot wall sign and one instructional sign for each entrance or exit in the general business district wherein the parcel is located.
The request for a directional sign on Atlantic Avenue was unanimously denied, as the board said they felt it would not be necessary with the pylon and canopy signs.
The board however, did unanimously approve the directional sign on West Avenue.
Prior to the voting, Board Member Jim LeGates motioned to defer a decision, as to give the board more time to review the variance requests. That motion was not seconded.
More than 20 residents attended the meeting, many voicing their opposition to the signs and the Royal Farms itself.
“One of the reasons why I was hoping these kinds of businesses wouldn’t be in our town was because of the signage,” said resident Susie Miller. “I just think this is too much for the area that it’s in. I’d be really sorry to see it go up in our town.”
“The town is depending on you four to support us and not let them have these signs,” said resident Peggie Ravida. “It is my understanding that, if you don’t give them that, they maybe cannot build a Royal Farms there. That lot there, the building is supposed to have signage under the existing CVS sign. You are our first defense into this big intrusion onto the town of Ocean View.”
“I think we’re playing a little poker here, in that we have a lot of signs and maybe, if we give up a few signs, they’ll get their signs,” added resident Bob Ravida. “If they can live within the code and operate their business, great. If they can’t, it’s the wrong business.”
The Town had also received three letters from residents who were unable to attend the meeting but opposed the variances being granted.
“The way we are going now with the Sleepy’s, CVS and multiple banks, we will soon look more like a honky-tonk community, rather than the charming, welcoming community residents want,” wrote Dick Logue. “I would ask you to deny any variance request until you see an approved site plan.”
McMullen noted that the Town had not yet received an application for a site plan review from Royal Farms.
“If variances were granted, we would want those granted and reflected on the preliminary site plan,” explained Scott.
“Our intent would be construction later this summer,” added Jeff Bainbridge, director of real estate for Royal Farms.