Visual Environment Board Minutes 04-19-06
Advisory Board on the Visual Environment
Village of Croton-on-Hudson

Minutes:        VEB Meeting of Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Present:        Doug Wehrle, Chair, Sandy Hardy, Kevin McManus, Tom Smith, and Trustee Liaison Leo Wiegman.

Absent:         Building Dept. Liaison Joe Sperber.

At its April meeting, the VEB considered two sign applications, reviewed architectural plans for the Symphony Knolls apartment complex, and discussed possible replacements for former member Valerie leis.

1. Agave Azul
Steve Chester from Signs Ink appeared before the Board to review plans for a new Mexican restaurant, Agave Azul, which will occupy the site formerly occupied by the defunct Salsa restaurant.  As presented, the new sign will be 19 feet long, compared to 17 feet for the Salsa sign, and occupy a total of 47.5 square feet.  The proposal featured the new restaurant’s name in 30 inch-high, red channel letters akin to the red lettering used in the Capriccio II Pizza and “Atural” Nails & Foot Spa on either side.  Following the name will be a rounded yellow rectangle with the words, “Mexican Grill & Tequileria” in black letters; a predominantly turquoise and red sombrero would be perched on the upper right corner of the yellow rectangle.
VEB Discussion:
a.      VEB member Tom Smith questioned the use of the red lettering and suggested using turquoise to stand out from the adjacent signs and to match the color that appears in the sombrero.  When a review of the colors available in the transparent plexiglass used for the letters showed no reasonable match, Mr. Chester and the Board considered various options before settling on a vibrant orange color that would “work” with the yellow and turquoise colors of the sign and provide additional visual identity.
b.      Chair Doug Wehrle wondered if there might be a way to make the sombrero more prominent or to add some movement.  Sandy Hardy and Tom Smith discussed alternative approaches before settling on the idea of changing the angle of the sombrero as it rests on the sign, cutting off more of the yellow rectangle.  Mr. Chester suggested the possibility of adding strips of neon—one blue, one red—to appropriate places on the hat to give a sense of greater liveliness.
c.      Tom advised that the spacing between the letters in Agave Azul be reduced and that the final “L” should not overlap the left edge of the yellow rectangle.  Mr. Chester agreed, noting that the overlap would be difficult to accomplish and was therefore best avoided.  

VEB Recommendations
a.      The Board voiced its approval of the sign with the various changes that had been discussed:  using orange instead of red for the restaurant’s name; changing the angle of the sombrero and adding neon strips; and tightening up the spacing and eliminating the overlap between the restaurant’s name and the yellow rectangle.

2. Computer Troubleshooters
Patrick Whelan from Croton met with the VEB to discuss the sign for his new computer repair business, to be located in a brick building at 383 South Riverside Avenue.  As presented, the rectangular sign measures 48 inches wide by 28 inches high and contained a wealth of information.  From top to bottom, this includes a list of the services he will provide (Repairs / Networks / Upgrades / Security) in an italic typeface, the company’s name and trademarked logo in white type on a green rectangular background, the slogan “Technology Solved” in a square, white “techie” font against an orange background, and the business’s phone number and Web address.  The sign would be centered above the window to the left of the entrance.
VEB Discussion:
a.      Members agreed that the sign needs to be reduced in size to fit more comfortably into its assigned space above the window, to allow a 3-4 inch offset between the sign and top of window/bottom of roof soffit.  To accomplish this, the group explored various ways of reallocating the information it contains, keeping some on the sign itself and relegating additional information to the window, keeping in mind regulations that restrict such coverage to 25 percent of the glass.
b.      In the end, Tom, in collaboration with other members, sketched out an alternative approach that features the company’s name (“Computer Troubleshooters”), logo, and slogan (“Technology Solved”) on the sign itself.  The VEB suggested that the four services should be relocated to the top portion of the window, two “services” per pane; these could be applied in white lettering that matches the “techie” font used for the slogan, with a green shade being installed behind them to ensure readability and to provide protection against the afternoon sun.  The phone number and Web address (in white lettering on an orange background) could then be applied on a film at the bottom of the windows, one piece of information per pane.  In this way, the shop front window will be used to enhance the company’s identity in a coordinated approach, including color and lettering that reflects the company’s logo, while preserving the sense of “open for business” that the 25% restriction was intended to foster.
c.      Mr. Whelan asked if Cortlandt Signcrafters, who are making the sign, would be able to create the lettering for the windows; the Board assured him that most likely they could.
d.      The Board voiced no objection to Mr. Whelan’s posting a small sign with his business hours—preferably a neat, computer-generated sheet (perhaps with the business name and logo) on the entry door, though they allowed for the possibility of a small black sign with changeable white lettering in the window.
e.      Mr. Whelan and the Board also discussed needed improvements to the building façade, including the replacement of mission architectural elements and perhaps restoration of the small pediment above the entry, where the original material—presumably wood—was at some point covered with faux brick.  The Board expressed its hope that the landlord would work to improve the appearance of the building.
f.      Finally, the conversation moved to possible streetscape improvements, from the use of planters to the idea of requesting that street trees be planted in openings to be cut in the cement sidewalk.  Again, the Board urged Mr. Whelan to speak to his landlord about the benefits of such improvements.
VEB Recommendations:
a.      The Board approved the sign as revised during the course of the meeting, as sketched out by Tom.  Members encouraged Mr. Whelan to be back in touch with any follow-up questions.

3. Symphony Knoll
The Board reviewed architects’ plans for Symphony Knoll, a three-story, 11-unit low income apartment house to be constructed adjacent to existing low-income housing off Mt. Airy Road South.  VEB member Kevin McManus expressed surprise at the size of the parking lot, which covers a greater area than the unit itself, voiced concern about the visual impact the lighting of the parking lot will have at night, and wondered about the impact the additional traffic will have; despite its proximity to the Upper Village, the complex is geared to automobile use.  He also inquired as to the strategy of concentrating two clusters of low-income housing at a single site, given his understanding that it is generally preferable to disperse such necessary units across an entire town or village.
Doug asked what the level and quality of siding and other construction materials will be.  The Board as a whole emphasized the importance of creating a continuous sidewalk for pedestrians to be able to walk from the front door of the apartment unit to Mt. Airy via the most direct route.  The VEB’s recommendation is to connect to an upgraded version of the sidewalk that currently leads to the existing house that will be demolished to make way for the new building.  Such an alignment would provide the most direct path of pedestrian access for residents wishing to access the Upper Village and the goods and services that are available within comfortable walking distance.  A second, although less direct alignment, could simply extend the existing truncated sidewalk along southerly side of the entry road. However, this alternative would clearly present a much less direct route for pedestrians wishing to access the Upper Village.  
The VEB wishes to emphasize its opinion that for a community that prides itself on attributes of “walkability” and energy consciousness, the omission of pedestrian linkage is unacceptable.   Given the fact that that this development would locate high density lower income residences in close proximity to one of the Villages prime commercial districts, make the imperative for generous and convenient pedestrian access even more pronounced.

4.  New VEB Member
The Board discussed what areas of expertise it would seek in suggesting a new member for the Board.  The consensus is that, with two talented designers already in place, the group would benefit most from adding someone with a business perspective.  Several names were put forward, and members agreed to devote the next few weeks to generating a list of candidates.

The Meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.