Rocky Fork Enterprise

City orders Dolphin Lounge to take down sign

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A sign issue that apparently should go before the Board of Zoning Appeals dominated a Planning Commission workshop and some of its regular meeting Sept. 25.

Lori Ebright, owner of the Dolphin Lounge, 345 Agler Road, initially appeared before the commission two weeks ago to seek a variance to allow a nonconforming sign in need of repair to retain its nonconforming designation. A portion of a rooftop sign was damaged months ago, and she had it repaired and remounted on the roof.

She said she thought if the sign was less than 50 percent damaged, she could repair it and put it back up.

Ebright said a windstorm had damaged the rooftop sign of the business that has been in operation for 42 years.

She said her mother originally owned the Dolphin Lounge and operated it until her death six years ago.

Since then, Ebright said, she has owned it and tried to improve the inside and outside.

Planning and zoning administrator Bonnie Gard said the sign was up with a nonconforming status, and when it was removed, it became altered and shouldn't have been put back up.

City attorney Shane Ewald provided a written opinion in the matter, saying it was clear in a Nov. 29, 2012, order from Gard that the roof sign should not have been reinstalled after being damaged by severe weather.

Under the Gahanna City Code, Section 1165.05(b)(2), Ewald said, it states that a legal nonconforming sign shall immediately lose its nonconforming designation and shall be immediately brought into compliance with city code and a new permit secured if so required, or shall be removed if the nonconforming sign is determined by the planning administrator or chief building official to be in a dangerous or defective condition; or in need of repair or replacement.

Ewald said Ebright has the option to appeal the decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals or to apply for a variance for the new sign.

He asked Gard to reissue the order to take the sign down within 30 days and to waive the time requirement for filing an appeal with BZA.

If Ebright chooses to apply for a variance, the existing application could be modified to reflect the appropriate code section.

Ewald asked that the filing fees for the variance be carried over from what the applicant already has paid.

Commission member Joe Keehner said the issue seems to be prompting a lot of legal nitpicking.

"Is there any leeway when looking at historical preservation?" he said.

Commission member Kristin Rosan said it doesn't seem like the applicant is at fault.

She asked if council could refund some of Ebright's filing fees.

Gard said she had asked that the sign not go back up because she didn't think it was routine, ordinary maintenance.

Assistant city attorney Tom Weber said Gard is saying the sign lost its nonconforming status.

"If you want to maintain what you have, this isn't your body," he said. "We can only try to get you on the right path and go from there."

The variance before the commission was postponed to Oct. 9 to provide Ebright time to pursue other options.

In other commission action, a variance was approved to allow a 10-foot, 6-inch sideyard setback in a single-family zoning district, which requires a 15-foot side yard for property at 849 Clotts Road.

A certificate of appropriateness to allow two new exterior garage doors for Precision Broadband Installations Inc., 1089 Claycraft Road, also was approved.

The Gahanna Parks and Recreation Department also received approval for a certificate of appropriateness for a site plan and building design at the Gahanna Municipal Golf Course, 220 Olde Ridenour Road, to rebuild an existing deck.

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