Northland Community Council development committee members last week unanimously recommended rejection of a request by Carfagna's Inc. to be allowed to continue operating a digital sign at the venerable East Dublin-Granville Road store that is in violation of the city's graphics code.
Committee members declined to even consider an offer of compromise from the attorney for the family-owned business, according to Chairman Dave Paul.
The 18-0 vote followed an impassioned plea from co-owner Sam Carfagna and attorney Robert Behal that the sign -- for which city officials issued a permit on July 13, 2013 -- must continue to have rapidly changing messages in order to attract customers.
"You have the power to help us, and we wish you to understand the importance of Carfagna's signage," Sam Carfagna, co-owner with brother Dino, told members of the advisory panel.
"They want to stay in the Northland area ... but they really do feel they need this sign," Behal said.
Digital signs now must meet a graphics code that was changed to exclude the use of flashing graphics and requires messages to remain static for a minimum of 8 seconds.
The Carfagna's sign, according to a video shot by development committee Vice Chairman William Logan, not only has special effects but also changes words about every 2 seconds.
The 8 seconds, Logan pointed out, were recommended by a 14-member committee assembled by city officials, of which 13 represented sign companies.
"At an 8-second time, the sign is not as valuable to us and doesn't do what we bought it for," Behal said.
He and Carfagna both said the sign was an expensive investment for the small business, but at one point, the co-owner blurted the figure $50,000 as questions from committee members appeared to indicate they were having a hard time recommending the specialty foods store be allowed to continue operating a sign in violation of the code.
Businesses with digital signs were given a one-year grace period by city enforcement personnel after the graphics code changes went into effect, according to Logan.
He said Carfagna's had been cited for the sign, and noted that seven other business with digital message boards had come into compliance with the new regulations.
"This committee cannot arbitrate every digital sign along (state Route) 161," he added.
Early in the discussion, Behal agreed on his client's behalf to eliminate the special effects and graphics from the sign at 1405 E. Dublin-Granville Road.
Later, after conferring with a visibly upset Carfagna, the attorney also offered to double the length of time messages stay on the board to 4 seconds, still half of what code requires.
"The committee considered and voted on the question of its support for the variance as submitted, without conditions," Paul wrote in his report. "When the committee was invited to consider the question of its conditional support for the 'compromise' verbally proposed by the applicant, a minimum of 4 seconds versus the 8 seconds called for ... no member presented a motion for its consideration and hence no vote was taken."
The variance request will next be considered by the members of the Graphics Commission.