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Thread: Sign Variance/Appeal

  1. #1

    Sign Variance/Appeal

    My boss and I are having a philosophical disagreement over sign appeals. In the past, we have allowed businesses to request a variance to allow them to have more than one sign on their property.

    Our code allows each business to have 1 monument sign or one wall sign. Corner properties are allowed two wall signs or a monument and a wall sign. We have had situations where the Plan Commission has granted variances allowing non-corner properties to have a monument sign and a wall sign.

    Our disagreement is over whether they should be allowed to even ask for a variance to allow two signs. I say that applicants should have the right to apply for a variance, even if there is no hardship and no chance of it being approved. Then it is the Plan Commission’s responsibility to deny the variance. I guess I feel that any applicant, no matter the situation, has the right to appeal my decision to deny their request for an additional sign. My boss says that they shouldn’t even be allowed to apply, because appeals should be for size and location, not the number of signs.

    Any opinions?
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  2. #2
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I would tend to agree with you, allow them to apply for a variance in the number of signs permitted on a property, forcing them to explain in detail, and design why they need more.

    i would have one word of caution though, not knowing your legal system, what is the appeal process like for the decision of a Commission. If it is onerus and a pain in the a$$ for your office it may be easier to say no variance applications on this item as it does not qualify for variances and it save the office time and money down the road. Don't tell people the second part.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    We only allow dimensional appeals. What they are asking for is a use variance and is specifically prohibited by the code. They can't even ask for it.

  4. #4
    I usually will give the applicant some guidance. If I don't like what they are applying for I can reasonably assume the Plan Commission will deny the request and I tell the applicant that I don't think they have a chance.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    What does your ordinance say as far as the boards responsibility? Ours specifically says that applicants can request variance from any dimensional or numerical requirement/standard in the zoning ordinance. The number of signs allowed on a property is numerical, so they can apply for it if they want.

    They whole purpose of a ZBA or Planning Commission is to get a group of unbiased opinions. It's not your boss' place to decide if the request has merit - it is the boards job to make those decisions.

  6. #6
    Here is our appeals ordinance.

    15.6.12 SIGN PERMIT APPEALS.

    Purpose of Appeals. Sign variances are intended to allow flexibility to the sign regulations while still fulfilling the purpose of the regulations. Nothing in this Section, however, is intended to permit the erection or maintenance of signs which are prohibited in this Chapter.

    Procedures.
    Upon denial of a sign permit, requests for a hearing shall be made in writing to the Community Development Planner no less than twenty-one (21) days before the meeting of the Plan Commission or its designated entity or more than thirty (30) days from denial of a permit. A fee in accordance with Section 15-6-8(c)(I) shall be required of the applicant at the time that a request for hearing is made.

    The Plan Commission or its designated entity shall make the final decision on appeals using the following criteria:

    The basic rule of thumb should be that there be no public harm and there be a public benefit.

    Variance considerations will include proposal for signs which would enhance the overall character of a neighborhood, or to mitigate unusual site conditions.

    The sign as proposed will not result in an undue concentration of signage which renders it difficult or confusing to read existing signs.

    The affect a proposed sign may have on depreciating property values of a neighborhood.

    The Plan Commission in its deliberation of an adjustment may consider the location of the proposed sign, the height, the size, the appearance, number, and location of other signs in the vicinity of the proposed sign, and any other factor as the Plan Commission deems appropriate.

    (3) Should the Plan Commission approve a variance, the application will be forwarded to the Community Development Planner, with directions to issue a permit in accordance with the decision. If the Commission finds that a variance should not be granted, it shall inform the applicant of the reasons for such decision, in writing, within ten (10) days of the adoption of the Plan Commission minutes.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Your code sucks!


    Just kidding.

    I think that the matter is vague enough that they would be allowed to apply for the second sign. However, if your professional opinion is that it will be denied, I do think you should advise the applicant that they "could" be wasting time and money. You do not owe them detailed analysis of "why" - it is not your job to mount thier defense or carry their argument.

  8. #8
    The thing is bturk, our code DOES suck! I have mentioned this on several occasions to no avail. The PC has no rhyme or reason in many of their decisions and often ignores staff's concerns when it comes to signage. One response to a recent request for a black wall sign in a strip mall with all red wall signs and a red monument sign was "If we are going to be business friendly, we should allow businesses to have whatever signs they want." They have granted variances where no hardship whatsoever exists and have denied variances when there is a legitamate hardship.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    ** reads last post. pounds head on keyboard**

  10. #10
    Cyburbian prudence's avatar
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    Re: Sign Variance/Appeal

    Originally posted by jtfortin
    My boss and I are having a philosophical disagreement over sign appeals.

    Any opinions?
    I know you boss and he isn't very tolerant of disagreements from his department. Watch your step.
    "Dear Prudence...won't you open up your eyes? "

  11. #11

    Re: Re: Sign Variance/Appeal

    Originally posted by prudence


    I know you boss and he isn't very tolerant of disagreements from his department. Watch your step.
    He he
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Re: Re: Sign Variance/Appeal

    Originally posted by prudence


    I know you boss and he isn't very tolerant of disagreements from his department. Watch your step.
    Neither is yours! Watch your step!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian prudence's avatar
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    Re: Re: Re: Sign Variance/Appeal

    Originally posted by bturk


    Neither is yours! Watch your step!

    You assume I actually CARE what my boss thinks.
    "Dear Prudence...won't you open up your eyes? "

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