Neighbors object to large, illuminated sign at Canal Winchester church

SCOTT GERFEN
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ThisWeek group

Neighbors of a Canal Winchester church want City Council to stop it from erecting an illuminated sign they fear will shine onto their homes.

During a June 29 public hearing, council members listened to those concerns in addition to comments from Pastor Tim Moore of Crossroads Christian Church, a 1,200-seat building at 6600 Bigerton Bend.

When completed, the church – better known as X Church – will encompass more than 58,000 square feet.

Plans call for the church to erect large signs on three sides of the building: a 10-by-10-foot sign on the north side facing a shopping area, a 6-by-27.1-foot sign on the west side facing Gender Road and a 6.6-by-29-foot sign on the east side facing Bigerton Bend.

It is the third sign that is creating issues for some neighbors.

"I don't know of any other church that has a backlit sign on the building and to the proportion this sign will be," said Jeremy Ebert, who resides on Bigerton Bend. "I understand the proportion to the size of the building, but the sign itself is still a larger sign, no matter the size of the building."

Ebert appealed a May 11 planning and zoning commission decision that permits the church to install the internally illuminated signs in an area zoned as multifamily residential.

Council is expected to decide the appeal at a future meeting, but no date has been set.

Canal Winchester's zoning code was updated last year to allow only externally illuminated signs in residential districts, meaning a sign must have "a light shining on it, not from it," city planning and zoning administrator Andrew Moore said.

However, his staff recommended that the planning and zoning commission approve the church's variance request for the internally lit signs. The commission did so in a 4-1 vote, with Bill Christensen, Michael Vasko, Kevin Serna and Joe Wildenthaler voting yes and Joe Donahue voting no.

"The subject property is being developed for a large church facility, and the positioning of the building is greater than 590 feet from the nearest single-family residence," the commission's finding of facts said. "The scale ... makes the difference between internally and externally illuminated signage virtually nonexistent; neither type of lighting would reflect directly into adjoining residential properties."

The city's zoning code also states that churches or similar religious facilities must be on residentially zoned property.

The church sits just south of the shopping centers along Gender Road, where internally illuminated signs are permitted. However, if a sign faces a residential area, it cannot be within 100 feet of that area.

"I wouldn't be so opposed if the only backlit sign would be facing Gender Road, like all the other businesses have, but in my opinion, the one facing Bigerton Bend, on the east, I would ask that we consider not allowing those signs," Ebert said.

Robert Sycks, another Bigerton Bend resident, also asked City Council to reverse the planning and zoning commission's decision. He said he doesn't understand why a church needs such large signs.

"In consideration of what we've already been through and what we're going to get with increased traffic, I would hope that the church would be considerate and be a good neighbor," he said.

Moore, the church's lead pastor, described the signs as having "minimal light emission," with the face of each containing small perforations that allow for a "diffused soft white light" to be emitted during the evening hours.

Moore said church officials would be willing to place the sign facing Bigerton Bend on a timer, "so it's not on the entire night."

Church representatives also have committed to keeping a wooded area and planting additional trees in the greenspace between the street and the parking lot, according to Moore.

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