Residents, business owners respond to sign proposal

Residents, business owners and others were on hand Monday night to ask questions and share concerns about a potential electronic sign near the entrance to the Chester Village Green.

According to a June 1 letter from Carrie E. Coyner, an attorney with Rudy, Coyner & Associates, George Emerson and Philip R. Roper plan to file a zoning case under the name of Festival Park @ Chester Village LLC to permit an electronic sign near the entrance to Chester Village Green.

The sign will be located at the bottom of the hill along Route 10 and visible to drivers traveling east and west on the road, the letter says. The entire sign is 21 feet tall from the road grade. The electronic portion of the sign is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 10 feet wide, it says.

At a community meeting on Monday, June 14, Bermuda District Planning Commissioner Sam Hassen said the application for the Village Green sign had not yet been filed. Emerson told the audience of about 50 people that he and others were “here tonight to get your input.”

“I don’t particularly want to spend this much money on a sign, but the goal is for the retailers to be successful,” he said.

Coyner said she had met several times with various groups about the issue in recent years.

“I know when you hear electronic sign, a lot of folks think there’s going to be a lot of flashing,” she said. But, she added, the developer thinks the sign would provide the best support for the businesses in the Village Green, and that it can be done in a tasteful way.

“The overall sign sounds really tall,” Coyner said, “but when you look at the road grade, it’s actually a much more subtle sign.”

As proposed, there would be “no movement whatsoever in the advertisements themselves,” Coyner said, so each businesses’ advertisement should look like a fixed sign for the 10 seconds it would be displayed.

Conditions would be included to provide for minimum maintenance of the sign, which would be turned off if it were not functioning, she said. The sign could also be dimmed in the evening, or turned off during the overnight hours. Community events in the Village Green could be advertised on the sign, she said, and emergency or weather alerts could be posted.

After Coyner’s presentation, the floor was opened for questions. One audience member asked if this sign were allowed, whatwould be done about other businesses that wanted electronic signs. Many of the businesses in the village have road frontage, Coyner said, but an electronic sign would serve well for mixed developments that were internally focused, such as the Village Green.

“You have to draw the line somewhere in the village,” she said, and that seemed a good place to draw it.

One resident asked whether the sign as proposed conformed to county regulations. Coyner said it was no secret the proposed sign didn’t conform in any way, shape or form to current regulations of signs in the village.

Milton Parish, the owner of Chandler Shades, said a sign would draw more businesses to the development by giving them a better way to advertise. More businesses mean a better tax base for the county, he said.

Howard Corey, president of the Chester Village Green Homeowners Association, said he didn’t think the homeowners had ever objected to a sign at the front of the development.

“The only disagreement I think we have is the type of sign that’s going to be up there,” he said. The homeowners understand that the businesses need to advertise, he said, but if this electric sign is allowed, how many more will appear on Route 10?

Bob Quirin asked Coyner what she thought of an alternative sign design submitted by Corey. Coyner said a general retail sign wouldn’t bear the name of individual businesses, and an unchanging, permanent sign wouldn’t give businesses the flexibility to advertise specials or sales.

Bob Schrum, of the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber strongly supports the use of such signs at the right spot and location, and “this is the right one.”

Sheila Warden, a business owner, said she didn’t know whether this was the right type of sign, but area residents don’t want the small businesses to leave the Village Green.

“It takes a lot of guts to open a small business when you have no road frontage and know you’re not going to have a lot of visibility,” she said.

At the end of the meeting, Emerson said he would likely apply for something this month. If an application is filed this month, it would probably be September before the matter came to the Planning Commission, Hassen said.

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