Following two occasionally acrimonious hearings at last week's Northland Community Council development committee meeting, members voted against supporting separate requests relating to signs on Morse Road.

Following two occasionally acrimonious hearings at last week's Northland Community Council development committee meeting, members voted against supporting separate requests relating to signs on Morse Road.

In one case, committee chairman Dave Paul said, members voted not to support a variance allowing an automatic changeable copy sign for a Shell station at 1195 Morse Road. It wasn't the LED pricing for gasoline that bothered committee members, he said. It was because the applicant, True North Energy LLC/Clare Acquisitions LCC, had not also requested the additional variances the sign would require.

In the other case, members recommended against extending the permit for a banner sign seeking tenants for the former Toys 'R' Us store at 1265 Morse Road. For one thing, Paul said, the sign put up on behalf of Burlingame Ventures LLC, the applicant, has always been larger than city code allows. Craig Miott of Khyber Investments, representing the applicant, said a citation regarding the size of the banner was being appealed.

The permit for the banner ran out on Oct. 31, but an application for the extension was not filed until Nov. 7 because, Miott explained, it looked as if a tenant had been found after the building had been vacant for three years. That deal fell through, he said.

"They felt that he had received, in effect, a year in which to effectively violate the spirit of the code, and that that was generous," Paul said.

Rodger Kessler of the Zanesville-based Kessler Sign Co. appeared on behalf of the applicants for the Shell station. He told committee members his client had agreed to many of the items requested during an informal appearance before the panel on July 27, including removing mention of the fact Kroger gas points can be redeemed there. Also, the new sign with changeable copy would be of the monument type, on the ground, as opposed to a tower sign.

The proposed sign still doesn't comply with various aspects of the Morse Road commercial overlay, committee member William Logan pointed out. It doesn't meet the setback requirement, is still too tall, exceeds the allowable square footage and doesn't include a business address.

The address would be no problem, Kessler said.

As for the rest: "This is the best that this company is willing to go at this particular location," he said.

Paul said that on Dec. 30, he shared concerns about the commercial overlay violations in the sign with a member of Kessler's staff, and so failed to understand why the application includes only the changeable copy request.

"I don't mean to be rude," he added.

"I hear what you're saying," Kessler said.

His client is unwilling to comply with the setback, square footage and other needed variances, he added.

"I'm just trying to find some happy medium between your overlay district and my client," Kessler said.

"They can just leave what they have," he added.

The development committee can't grant variances that haven't even been sought, Logan said.

"Your client would need to apply for a variance," Paul said.

The sign fails to comply with the overlay in at least six other areas besides the changing text, committee member Brandon L. Boos said.

"It's really going to be impossible for us to make a decision on that," he said.

"I understand the corner I've backed you into," Kessler said.

"We just really felt like we were between a rock and a hard place," Paul said in announcing the committee's decision.

The banner on the building at 1265 Morse Road was put up for the owner by a local sign company over a year ago, Miott said during his presentation.

"It turned out the sign company goofed," he said.

That sign was much larger than city code allows, but before the situation could be rectified, the firm went out of business, according to Miott. Another company replaced the banner, but with one that was still larger than allowed, according to comments at the hearing.

Failing to erect a properly sized sign and not taking the banner down once the permit expired, Boos said, "calls into question the entire code structure" with which businesses are supposed to comply.

"I think there are some very large issues at stake," Boos said.

"We thought we had the building leased," Miott said in explaining why no extension was sought when the permit for a banner of any size was about to expire.

What was to have been a law-enforcement training facility tenant failed to get the necessary financing and backed out on Halloween, the property owner representative said.

"You violated your agreement with the graphics commission," Logan told Miott during a sometimes-heated exchange.

"I would like the hearing to be less argumentative," Paul said at one point.

"We don't want a banner, we want a tenant," Miott said.