Northwest Civic Association Board of Trustees found little to like in a proposed electronic sign for the Premier at Sawmill Athletic Club, 3111 Hayden Road.
At their monthly meeting last week, none of the trustees voted to recommend approval of the 108-square-foot digital sign with automatic changeable copy, in spite of an attorney's promise community messages could be displayed along with advertising for the facility.
"We have an area plan that prohibits these kinds of signs," said Rosemarie Lisko, chairwoman of the graphics and zoning committee.
Nicholas Cavalaris, representing the athletic club, disputed that and said the plan supports upgrades to commercial properties.
"This is to me a terrible thing to have on Hayden Road," Lisko told the attorney. "I see no reason for it at all."
"That being that big is a little bad for me," Trustee Dave Shaw said.
The vote, when it was eventually taken, after Cavalaris consulted with his client about the possibility of having the proposal tabled to a future meeting, was six in favor of recommending denial and two abstentions.
Abstaining from voting were President John Ehlers and Secretary Kyle Hartman. Ehlers refrains from voting unless called upon to break a tie.
Hartman did not offer an explanation for abstaining from the decision.
Mature street trees and a sharp drop-off on the five-acre site are the reasons the owners want the sign, Cavalaris said.
"It's got a challenging visibility," he said.
Premier at Sawmill Athletic Club owners are seeking a graphics variance from city code, which would limit the size of a sign to 64 square feet, he told trustees.
Managers have been using temporary banners and other signs to draw attention to the club, Cavalaris said.
"That consolidates the message for the facility," he said of the digital sign.
"It basically takes advantage of modern technology. I admit it's a unique request."
However, Cavalaris stated such "vibrant" signs are increasingly being used throughout the country.
"You can look at it as a beacon for community messages," he said.
Cavalaris also pointed out there are 10 changeable copy signs within a third of a mile of his client's property, including several at the Strader's Garden Center, Columbus Gold and CVS.
"It is appropriate for the area," the attorney insisted.
Those signs predate the area plan or were approved over the objections of the civic association, Ehlers said.
"We're not being inconsistent in this," he said.
Ehlers also questioned the proposed size.
"It looks like it's out of scale a little bit," he said.
"It's an interesting site," Cavalaris replied. "It has some visibility challenges.
"This is not a billboard."
Ehlers invited Cavalaris to ask that the vote be delayed if he wanted to do so.
"I'm not sure tabling is going to change things," Ehlers said.
When Cavalaris said his client wanted to receive the board's recommendation, the vote was taken.
The attorney said the proposal is to come before the city's Graphics Commission on May 20.