Nick Cipiti says he got caught on the "cusp" when he located his new Liberty Tax office in Johnstown's Kroger Plaza.

Nick Cipiti says he got caught on the "cusp" when he located his new Liberty Tax office in Johnstown's Kroger Plaza.

The cusp between the village's old and new graphics codes. The cusp between allowing and prohibiting internally lit signage. The cusp between signing a lease and opening for business.

Cipiti, franchise owner of the new business, said he wishes his and two other businesses opening at the Kroger Plaza were permitted to have internally lit signs to advertise and make themselves more visible. In addition to Liberty Tax, Great Clips and Vs. Sports Bar and Grill were denied variances to permit internally lit signs.

According to Jim Lenner, village administrator, the three businesses were denied variances because they were unable to meet hardship criteria.

The village of Johnstown passed an ordinance May 18, 2010, that banned new internally lit signs in favor of signage that's externally lighted. Cipiti said the change of rules means that the three businesses at the plaza are among the few that would have externally lit signs among many internally lit signs villagewide.

"It's crazy when you're back away from the road," Cipiti said.

Cipiti said he believed he could have an internally lit sign when he began to establish the business.

"I just happen to be on the cusp," he said. "Every sign is internally lit."

He said he'd like to see his and the other two businesses grandfathered in so they can have internally lit signs.

"Otherwise, there'd be a mixture of signs," he said. "It would look terrible."

Cipiti is making do for now with the sign he originally ordered. It has been installed, but is being lit by gooseneck lamps above, rather than lighting from inside the sign. He said he believes the signage is less visible as it's now presented, and he thinks it's costing him business.

Neither Great Clips, which opened Jan. 28, nor Vs. has mounted a sign yet.

"They're just waiting to see what the village tells them," Cipiti said. He believes the village is working on a set of standards for the externally lit signs.

"That's the direction planning and zoning is going," Lenner said. "They're trying to retain (Johnstown's) rural atmosphere. It's not just that shopping center. It applies to all commercial centers."

Lenner said Sears has already conformed to the new code and uses gooseneck lights to illuminate its sign. A new Huntington Bank has an internally lit sign, he said, but that sign was approved shortly before council passed the new sign ordinance.

The original intent of the sign ordinance was to allow property owners to decide how to illuminate a sign externally, but since then, some people have asked the village to create a set of standards.

"That's what we're working on," Lenner said. "They can put up the gooseneck of their choice. The village isn't hindering their ability to put up a sign."