What About Bob's?
The Design Review Commission met remotely on Tuesday, Sept. 27 and spent about half of their time talking about Bob’s Discount Furniture, which recently opened a new location in the Village Mall. Design Review Chair, Jim Bartro, had previously noted that he and the Commission had gotten more calls about the Bob’s signs than any other issue that he could remember.
The issue for the Commission is that through ignorance or for some other reason, the company brought their desire for a new, large sign – matching the scale of other large retailers in the mall – to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and that body “approved” the sign, or at least the large architectural addition that supports the sign, several months ago.
However, town regulations are clear: Signage must comply with the town sign bylaw and nothing goes up without the review and approval of the Design Review Commission. Another complicating factor is that the style of signs at the Mall largely predated the sign bylaw.
Faced with the fait accompli, the Commission asked a lot of questions, and got some answers, regarding how the project moved along without getting them involved. As Barto explained, it should have come to the Commission first and might well have been rejected, in which case the applicant would have been free to go to the ZBA, which would likely have granted the variance.
In addition to the large facade sign above the retail space, Bob’s also installed a lighted sign on the “tower” at the entrance to the plaza and, in addition converted a freestanding “monument” sign in the grassy area along West Central, previously used to advertise tenants in the office building portion of the mall. With permission from the landlord, Bob’s also converted that sign to advertise their business.
Prior to approving what had already been done, Bartro asked the applicant to demonstrate that the ZBA had actually approved the matter – but staff member Maxine Kinhart “saved the day” by finding and sharing the relevant ZBA minutes.
So, without much enthusiasm, the Commission eventually voted to approve sign one, and then sign two (the large sign over the store and the sign on the ‘tower,’ respectively) but then voted to reject the third sign.
Here, the concern was creating a precedent that might lead other mall tenants to demand additional freestanding signs. “You can take it to the ZBA” was the message.