Northland News

Oversized LED sign garners another rejection

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Attorney Jeffrey L. Brown boasted at last week's Northland Community Council development committee meeting that he "helped Max and Erma's get the hamburger up" on the former Evanswood Drive headquarters of the restaurant chain.

For the second month in a row, though, the zoning lawyer failed to get the large LED sign up on the building facing Interstate 71 for the potential new headquarters of Atlas Butler Heating and Cooling.

The vote was 15-0 not to support a request for a graphics plan that called for oversized wall signs on the north and west sides of the building as well as a wall-mounted, light-emitting diode sign on the north elevation.

That rejection was for a slightly modified plan from one that was similarly turned down at the committee's January session.

The request for the graphics plan with variances from city regulations was made by Orange Barrel Media on behalf of Atlas Butler.

"I think the committee recognized that Jeff had addressed a number of our concerns," chairman Dave Paul said. "To some degree, it was a different set of issues.

"The main thing was simply that after discussing the other signs that the city has approved of this kind ... the committee just felt that this was an excessively large sign," he added. "I think the size and the proximity to the freeway ... were the big issues."

The proposed sign, which Brown said would not include moving images and would change messages instantly like a PowerPoint presentation to reduce distractions for I-71 motorists, would measure 425 square feet, Paul said. That's much larger than any existing LED signs elsewhere in Columbus, and considerably larger than committee members were willing to swallow.

"We're not sure that we want to be the ones to set the precedent," Paul said.

He also indicated that the ruling does not close the door to further discussions with Brown and his clients.

"We're not saying that there's nothing to talk about," Paul said.

At the January session, the proposal called for the sign to be on top of the former Max and Erma's building. Last week, the plan presented placed the sign on the side of the building, but still sticking above the rooftop by about four feet.

Any closer to the ground, Brown said, would place the sign where someone coming onto the property could reach it.

"This is an expensive piece of equipment," he said.

Brown said his clients had agreed to a limitation on the brightness of the LED sign proposed back in January, and would leave images up on it for a minimum of eight seconds at a time.

In addition to advertising Atlas Butler's services, Brown said the sign might be used for community purposes, such as scholarships the heating and cooling firm provides to local high school students.

Also at last week's meeting, committee members unanimously approved a graphics variance request for the new McDonald's restaurant to be built on Morse Road in the Northland Village complex. This McDonald's, part of a new prototype the fast-food giant is building across the country, will replace the existing Morse Road location near Maize Road, according to Lynsey Ondecker of GDP Group, representing McDonald's Real Estate Co.

The logo and restaurant name on the back of the building, which is the side most visible from Morse Road, are a combined 55.25 square feet, while 10 square feet is the limit in city regulations, Ondecker said.

"The sign is very important to us," she added.

Speaking the day after the meeting, Paul said the circumstances for the new fast-food place fit exactly the situation where variances should be granted.

Construction is scheduled to begin in July; the restaurant is expected to open in October.

"It was pretty obvious why the applicant wanted to have a graphic there of significant size," Paul said. "We didn't see any negative impact on surrounding properties. We didn't really see anything excessive about what they were doing."

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