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VEB Minutes June 22, 2007
Advisory Board on the Visual Environment
Village of Croton-on-Hudson

Minutes:        VEB Meeting of Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Present:        VEB Chair Doug Wehrle, Sandy Hardy, Kevin McManus, Tom Smith, and Building Dept. Liaison Joes Sperber.

Absent:         Trustee Liaison.

The Board reviewed two sign applications, after which Chair Doug Wehrle reported on recent meetings concerning the vacant Croton Dodge sites and general discussions about the South Riverside area and other commercial districts.

1. Croton Auto Park
Jason Giordano and a representative from the New Jersey-based Sign Here designers met with the Board to discuss a new panel for the existing pylon sign at Croton Auto Park at 1 Municipal Place.  The company has consolidated its businesses in Croton and will now be selling three makes of car from the single location.  As presented, the new panel replaces the 15 foot x 10 foot panel on the existing sign; the new sign lists "Chrysler," "Jeep," and "Dodge" from top to bottom.
VEB Discussion:
a.      VEB member Tom Smith asked whether the proportions in the sign as presented was fixed by corporate policy; if not, it was Tom's thought that some white space could be added at the top to make the "Chrysler" name seem less crowded.
b.      After noting for no discernible reason that the Board lacked authority to alter the sign, the representative from the sign company confirmed that all elements were indeed predetermined at corporate headquarters.   
VEB Recommendations:
a.      The Board approved the sign as presented.

2.  Union State Bank
No one attended the meeting on behalf of the Bank, which will occupy the space in the strip shopping center vacated by Home Entertainment Center.  As presented, the sign features the words "Union State Bank" in white lettering on a blue background both on the main eastern façade of the building and also on the south-facing side, the initials "USB" also appear in smaller white letters toward the upper left hand corner of the sign.  The main sign would measure 29.75 inches high and 33 feet, 2 inches long, with 20-inch high letters; the side-facing sign would be 29.75 inches high and 6 feet in length, with 16 inch high letters.  The proposal also included a neon sign reading "24 Hour ATM" that would measure 38 inches in height x 60 inches in width.

VEB Discussion:
a.      Joe Sperber noted that the south-facing sign on the building's sign requires a variance.  In addition, he informed the Board that he had already instructed the designer to reduce the size of the neon window sign to conform to code.
b.      Doug voiced his approval of the way the blue background interacted with the red in the adjacent UPS Store sign.
c.      Tom and Sandy, noting the way the sign on the side was "pushed-up" against the east corner of the building, had a suggestion:  since that sign requires a variance anyway, they proposed that the blue background be made to run the length of the store, and that the bank's name be centered over the south-facing window so that it would relate to some feature of the building.
VEB Recommendations:
a.      The Board tabled further discussion of the sign pending the request for a variance and subsequent re-submission of the design.

3. Discussion of Croton Dodge Site and South Riverside Area
Doug reported on the discussions being held by a group of residents who, motivated by the large number of commercial properties now for sale in Croton, wish to seize the opportunity to encourage the Village to be proactive in seeking appropriate businesses for those sites and in encouraging attractive and viable future commercial development.  Beginning with the vacant Croton Dodge building and storage lot, the group has now expanded its view to include a range of sites for potential development; they will be making their case for more assertive action by the Village Trustees at the June 25th work session of the Board.

Remounting an old hobby horse of his, VEB member Kevin McManus outlined the various obstacles the Village has placed in the way of developing the kind of compact, pedestrian-friendly commercial corridor that is key to creating a traditional, thoroughly mixed use retail/arts/entertainment district.  Kevin asserts that such recent steps as the rezoning of South Riverside/Harmon and Municipal Place from C1 to C2, the boost in minimum on-site parking requirements, and the shrinkage of permissible building sizes are antithetical to traditional "main-street style" retail development and should be altered to accommodate the citizen group's efforts.

Reaffirming the stance it took at its most recent meeting, the VEB stressed the importance of moving ahead aggressively to make the most of the opportunity Croton now faces. In particular, VEB members asserted the importance of hiring a retail analyst/ consultant to conduct a study aimed at identifying businesses that are appropriate to Croton's traditional character and that would be best positioned to succeed in face of conventional suburban retail development and the always-evolving retail environment.  Such an analyst would also be able to guide the Village in drafting an RFP aimed at future planning efforts and any new development.

VEB members likewise emphasized their desire to be a part of the process, noting that even short- and medium-term improvements to the area's visual environment along with graphic, street level renderings of what it might one day become will help generate enthusiasm and support for the important work being undertaken by this group of concerned citizens.

The meeting adjourned at approximately 9:15 p.m.