Visual Environment Board Minutes 10-19-05
Advisory Board on the Visual Environment
Village of Croton-on-Hudson

Minutes:        VEB Meeting of Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Present:        Sandy Hardy, Valerie Leis, Kevin McManus, Tom Smith, and Building Dept. Liaison Joe Sperber.

Absent:         Doug Wehrle, chair; Trustee Liaison Leo Wiegman.

The October meeting saw the VEB back at full strength with the addition of two new members, Sandy Hardy and Tom Smith.  The Board considered a new sign application and reviewed material pertaining to a possible change in a local gas station franchise.

1. Neurology/Acupuncture Professional Office
Yan Ling Gao, M.D. and her husband appeared before the Board to discuss their application for a free-standing professional sign in front of their home at 6 Mt. Airy Road, where they plan to establish Dr. Gao’s home medical practice.  Building Department Liaison Joe Sperber reported that the couple has satisfied all requirements for a “customary home occupation” permit, with the sign review being the final hurdle. VEB Chair Doug Wehrle, who was unable to attend the meeting, had earlier raised a question as to whether such a freestanding sign was compliant with the code for home businesses in a residential district; Joe asserted (and has since confirmed) that there is nothing in the code prohibiting a customary home occupation sign from being free standing.
As presented to the Board, the sign would be made of plastic and contain the words “Neurology” and “Acupuncture” in uppercase letters above a cursive rendering of Dr. Gao’s name, with the office phone number printed at the bottom of the sign.  The letters would apparently be applied in black spray paint using a stencil.  The sign would be mounted next to the home’s mailbox, perpendicular to the road, on two slender brackets normally used to mount shelving on a wall.

VEB Discussion:
a.      Members were unanimous in advising Dr. Gao that the sign, as submitted, would not be of a quality commensurate with a professional medical practice.  Members Valerie Leis and Tom Smith likewise voiced concerns that the upright brackets used in mounting the sign would provide insufficient support, especially in the case of a strong wind.
b.      There was significant additional discussion as to what wording should be included on the sign and where it should be located to ensure that patients make their way around the back of the house to the office instead of knocking on the front door.
c.      Tom Smith also raised the possibility of using a simple black sign of the kind often associated with medical or legal offices; as an example, he pointed to the signs identifying the Village Justice in the courtroom where the meeting was taking place.  

VEB Recommendations
a.      The Board recommended that Dr. Gao work with a sign company to fabricate a wooden sign with the name “Yan Lin Gao, M.D.” at the top, followed by the two areas of practice (“Neurology” and “Acupuncture”) on the lines immediately below, and the phone number at the bottom.  Tom suggested that they consider using Arial or a similar font.
b.      Further, the Board suggested that the sign be suspended from a horizontal “arm” affixed to a solid white post anchored firmly in the ground.  Members advised that the sign be located at some remove from the mailbox to enhance visibility.
c.      The Board presented Dr. Gao with a sketch of the approach being suggested; Joe Sperber advised her to keep in touch with him moving ahead, and the couple also agreed to email a rendition of the revised sign to VEB members for final consideration.
d.      Post-meeting communication with the applicant has resulted in a revised design that is agreeable to all parties.
e.      More generally, because of potential ambiguity in the compliance of a free standing sign in such cases—ie, while there appears to be nothing explicitly prohibiting them, the only mention of such signs is in connection with bed and breakfast establishments—the VEB will address the entire range of freestanding signage in its upcoming code review.

2. BP Gas Station
The Board briefly reviewed a proposal from Sherri Hartsell in North Carolina, on behalf of the Connecticut-based Consumer’s Petroleum.  It laid out in significant detail the signage and façade treatment for a possible gas station conversion from a Gulf to a BP franchise at 205 South Riverside Avenue.
VEB Discussion
a.      The Board commended both the quality and completeness of the materials presented and expressed appreciation to the various entities involved for extending us the courtesy of reviewing them.

3. Discussion
Board members held a general discussion of several issues involving the Village’s visual environment.  They devoted particular attention to the Dairy Mart at the intersection of South Riverside and Benedict Boulevard, noting with concern that the amount of window space devoted to a motley assortment of signs clearly exceeds the 25% maximum allowed under code; members also noted the poor condition of the store’s exterior signs, which are in an extreme state of disrepair, including exposed fluorescent bulbs in the light box.  Joe Sperber promised to look into it.  He also assured the Board that he would talk to the proprietors of the new Sofia restaurant, located in the ShopRite strip mall, who installed their sign without presenting it to the VEB for review.
Board members also expressed the hope that Benedict Boulevard would be restored to first-rate condition when the road work now underway is completed.
Finally, although absent from the meeting, Doug Wehrle has requested that Joe Sperber provide the VEB with a copy of the property map for the Croton Dodge storage lot on Riverside Avenue.  This property was identified in the Comprehensive Plan, which proposes a vegetative buffer between the sidewalk and the lot with delineated curb cut(s).  The VEB seeks a better understanding of the relationship of the roadway right-of-way and the Dodge property in order to determine if there is sufficient publicly owned land to create such a planting bed.
(Update:  In a subsequent exchange of emails, Joe reported that he had reminded the management company for ShopRite Plaza that any new tenant must apply for a sign permit and wait for VEB review before installing signage.  He further reported that the owner of the Dairy Mart property will received a letter with a reminder of the 25% signage rule.  And he arranged to deliver a map of the Dodge property to Doug at his home.)     

The Meeting adjourned at 8:55 p.m.