Visual Environment Board Minutes 12-21-05
Advisory Board on the Visual Environment
Village of Croton-on-Hudson


Minutes:        VEB Meeting of Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Present:        Doug Wehrle, chair; Sandy Hardy, Kevin McManus, and Building Dept. Liaison Joe Sperber.

Absent:         Tom Smith, Valerie Leis, Trustee Liaison Leo Wiegman.

Though its numbers were depleted by illness and business travel, the VEB considered three sign applications at its December meeting.


1. Indigo Age
Appearing before the VEB on behalf of Indigo Age was its owner, Myra Oney, who explained that she was moving her business (formerly known as “Magna Jewel”) to the space that had been occupied by Creative Copy at 129 Grand Street.  The move was motivated by the opportunity to inhabit more suitable space for an expansion of the business, which will now carry a range of New Age merchandise to complement her core magnetic jewelry business.  These two activities are reflected in the proposed signage, which was designed by Signs Ink in Yorktown:  a 12 inch x 54 inch “Sintra” sign over the door would read “Indigo Age” in 6-inch gold lettering on an indigo background (Pantone #2747).  The window nearest the door would feature a second sign, measuring 12 inches x 24 inches, spelling out the name “Magna Jewel” in the same indigo color with a light green design above it.  The window sign would be suspended from the top of the window frame by a slender chain.
VEB Discussion:
a.      Board member Sandy Hardy voiced concern that customers might be confused by the relation of “Indigo Age” to “Magna Jewel,” as reflected in the two signs.  One possibility would be to add brief explanatory wording to the window sign—for example, “featuring Magna Jewel.”  Ms. Oney acknowledged the challenges of expanding the business without losing core customers who are familiar with the old name, but expressed her strong commitment to the signage as presented.
b.      Sandy and VEB Chair Doug Wehrle suggested the possibility of applying the Magna Jewel sign directly to the bottom of both windows, perhaps by printing it on a transparency, thereby integrating the Magna Jewel name and logo as part of a decorative window treatment and avoiding the sense of impermanency conveyed by the window sign as presented.  Ms. Oney agreed to discuss the possibilities with Steve Chester of Signs Ink.  

VEB Recommendations
a.      The Board approved the Indigo Age sign as presented.
b.      In regard to the window sign, the Board expressed approval of the lettering and design of the Magna Jewel sign but asked Ms. Oney to explore the alternatives for applying it directly to the window before mounting it as originally proposed.


2. Bank of New York
Brian O’Connor of Frohling Sign Co. in Nanuet appeared before the Board to present plans for new signage to be mounted on the side of the Bank of New York building facing west onto Riverside Avenue.  The purpose of the sign would be to draw attention to the drive-up ATM located there.  To comply with code, the Bank plans to remove the black lettering spelling out the bank’s name on the white fascia board above where the new sign would be.  As proposed, the new sign would measure 12 feet long x 3 feet high and be internally illuminated.  There would be two stacked lines of text, with the top line reading “The Bank Of New York” in white lettering on a burgundy background, and the second line reading “24 Hour Drive-In ATM,” also in white lettering.  Mr. O’Connor noted that the Bank’s signage tends to vary from branch to branch, and that it did not have a single “look,” as does the Wachovia Bank located nearby on Route 129.
VEB Discussion
a.      Board members expressed strong reservations about the appearance of the sign and especially its placement on the wall, where it did not give the sense of being “anchored” to any one architectural feature.  Mr. O’Connor explained that the placement had been dictated entirely by visibility, to ensure that passing drivers can see the sign when trees along South Riverside are in full foliage.
b.      Mr. O’Connor and the Board discussed various alternatives for enhanced visibility while integrating the sign more fully into the building’s design.  One possibility would be to mount a single-line version of the sign (instead of the “stacked” version) on the fascia board where the existing lettering is mounted.  At the same time, Board members expressed regret at losing that older signage, which conveys a stately impression.
c.      Another alternative would be to install a freestanding sign along the lines of the one at the Wachovia Bank, and then to mount a much smaller “directional” sign on the wall of the building itself to designate the drive-up ATM.  Mr. O’Connor agreed to discuss this possibility with the Bank and the landlord, while Joe Sperber will look into issues of code compliance.  Mr. O’Connor added that his firm had recently installed a low profile, “monument-style” freestanding sign near the street at another bank location, and all agreed this might be an attractive, functional (the sign would be visible beneath the tree canopies), and yet less-intrusive solution.  He and Joe will look into the issues surrounding this approach as well.  

VEB Recommendations
a.      In light of its concerns about the new sign as proposed, the Board suspended consideration of it pending review of the various alternatives.


3. Memphis Mae’s BBQ/Bistro
Applicant Jeff Matros and business partner Andreas appeared before the Board to discuss signage for their new restaurant, to be located next door to the Bank of New York in the Croton Commons shopping area.  They described plans for the 50-seat establishment, which will occupy the space that formerly housed Kelleher Appliance, explaining that its designation as a “bistro” described the atmosphere they hoped to create—one of “warmth, elegance, and southern hospitality.”  As designed by Croton resident Elton Robinson and executed by Signs Ink, the principal signage will consist of the words “Memphis Mae’s BBQ Bistro” (with the last two words stacked) on a lightbox measuring 16 feet 5 inches long x 22 inches high.  The word “Memphis” will be all uppercase in letters 6.5 inches high, while the “M” in “Mae’s” will be a cursive font measuring 19 inches in height.  The lettering in “BBQ” and “Bistro” would be 3.25 inches high.  All lettering would be in red on a white background, matching all other signage along the strip.
The window would contain a neon sign reading “BBQ” in 16 inch high letters and the words “Eat In” and “Take Out” in 6 inch high letters stacked below.     
VEB Discussion
a.      Board members conveyed Tom Smith’s comments as expressed in an emailed review of the signage.  For example, Tom had written that the cursive font used for the “Mae” struck him as being overly elegant for a barbeque restaurant, and he likewise questioned its designation as a “bistro.”  Tom also observed that the font in the neon window sign was not “connected” visually to the rest of the design.
b.      The applicants agreed that, in preparing the application, Signs Ink had not depicted the neon sign in a way that adequately reflects the font used by Elton in the name “Mae’s” on the lightbox.  At the same time, they reaffirmed that the word “bistro” reflects the idea they are looking to create an establishment that differs from the standard expectations one might have for a BBQ restaurant.
c.      Doug expressed reservations about the red lettering of the sign, which seemed to him to lack sufficient “punch.”  The applicants explained that all the stores in Croton Commons are required to use the same red, and assured him that it is more vivid than it appears on the digital image.
d.      Additional discussion centered on the possibility of simplifying the lightbox sign, perhaps eliminating the “BBQ” and “Bistro” in order to make the restaurant’s actual name larger.  However, it turns out that the light box for the sign does not extend the entire length of the storefront, so this is not possible.  The applicants pointed out that the name “Mae’s” already extends almost the entire height of the lightbox.

VEB Recommendations
a.      VEB members noted that the applicants had already anticipated and closely considered every point that was raised.  Even though the Board did not always agree with their conclusions, members felt no reservations about approving the signs as presented.


The Meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.