July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Brunswick billboard doesn’t light up support

Owners of the site of a proposed electronic billboard on the east side of Interstate 71 in Brunswick say they are doing everything they can to address concerns of neighborhood residents.

On Tuesday, more than 100 residents attended a Brunswick Board of Zoning Appeals meeting to protest the proposed billboard.

Earlier that day, members of Twenty Acres of Woods LLC provided more details about the sign they hope to erect on the southwest corner of their property in the northernmost section of the Brunswick Industrial Park.

Residents of Park Place at Benjamin Farms placed a sign encouraging residents to attend the Brunswick Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Tuesday night. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY LOREN GENSON)

Cal Wible and Dave LeHotan said they are trying to correct inaccurate ideas about the project.

“Our permit lets us build a sign 20 feet by 60 feet, but we only want to build it 14 feet by 48 feet,” LeHotan said.

LeHotan said the sign would not be more than 35 feet off the ground, although his permit would allow construction up to 80 feet high.

Residents have speculated that the sign could be as high as 70 feet because the variance request from the owners says 30 to 70 feet.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the owners have yet to make their formal presentation before the zoning board and where they would be questioned by members to present specific information.

The owners twice have withdrawn their petition — in 2011 and again on Tuesday — and have not yet given the board an official presentation on what they plan to construct.

On Monday, the owners wrote a letter to the board asking that their petition be withdrawn from consideration, but promising to return within 60 days.

Residents attending Tuesday’s meeting were surprised that they weren’t allowed to comment on the proposal because it had been taken off the agenda.

“We had hoped people would have had the opportunity to make their comments,” Santo Incorvaia, legal counsel for the zoning board, told residents Tuesday night. “For them to send a letter last minute is discourteous to the audience here.”

Incorvaia promised the board would notify residents when the item returns to the agenda.

In addition to the size and height of the billboard, residents and City Council members say they have other concerns.

Louis DeCuzzi, president of the Benjamin Farms Homeowners Association, said he is worried about the impact the light from the billboard and visibility of the billboard would have on property values.

Stacy Coundourides, of Edgar Lane, said she doesn’t understand the reason for the sign, adding, “It doesn’t enhance the city.”

LeHotan said the property is one of the few places along the I-71 corridor where a lighted sign can be installed.

He said state laws have tough restrictions on most signs along interstates for areas that were incorporated after 1959. While the city of Brunswick was incorporated in 1960, the Twenty Acres of Woods Property was incorporated in 1926 as part of a Brunswick Township. Later, the property was annexed into the city of Brunswick.

“Nearly all the property along 71, until you get to Columbus, was incorporated after 1960, so this is one of the only places we can put a sign,” said Wible.

LeHotan said a sign can’t be placed further south in the industrial park because the Ohio Department of Transportation has regulations that prohibit lighted signs near exit and entrance ramps.

LeHotan said concerns about property values were addressed in a study completed this year by Charles P. Braman and Co., a real estate appraisal firm. He said he commissioned the study about 18 months ago when he last heard from residents about their concerns regarding an impact on property values.

“We started with traffic studies, then when we heard the concern about property values, we had another study done,” he said. “Now, there’s a concern about light, so we had a study to analyze that.”

An engineer’s study showed the impact of the lighted billboard would be equivalent to a one-foot candle from a distance of 1,000 feet. Wible estimates the sign would be between 750 and 800 feet from the nearest house.

The two signs, one facing southbound traffic and the other facing northbound traffic, both would be pointed toward motorists, not angled to the housing developments on the side of the road, LeHotan said.

LeHotan said the sign would benefit the community because it could publicize Amber alerts and other safety service warnings.

He said it could be a great advertising spot for local businesses to notify traffic to exit the throughway to visit their retail stores.

Wible and LeHotan also said that the property that they purchased in 2003 from the industrial park developers always has been zoned for commercial use. His business, All Construction Services, is one of the properties on the 20 acres he owns.

The nearby homes were developed in the 1990s, he said, but the industrial park started development in 1974.

“This has always been an industrial park, and it has commercial zoning for just this type of thing,” LeHotan said. Residents who purchased lots and built their homes on the south side of the Benjamin Farms subdivision had to know their property faced a commercial development.

But while the property is zoned commercial, the owners must get a variance from the zoning appeals board because of a sign ordinance passed by Brunswick Council members last year. That ordinance protects tall freestanding signs near the intersection of I-71 and state Route 303, but doesn’t extend up to the property at the north end of the park.

On Tuesday night, most of the residents at the zoning appeals meeting waited more than 1½ hours for the board to finish with its agenda items to ask for a chance to voice their concerns.

Brunswick’s city charter requires that residents within 500 feet of the property receive notification of the variance request by certified mail, but other residents in nearby neighborhoods that could be affected heard about the proposed sign as a result of the fliers and signs distributed by Council members Mike Abella, 1st Ward, and Brian Ousley, at large.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.