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Visual Environment Board Minutes 09-22-04
Advisory Board on the Visual Environment
Village of Croton-on-Hudson

Minutes:        VEB Meeting of Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Present:        Doug Wehrle, chair; Marianne Bosshart, Valerie Leis, and Building Dept. Liaison Joe Sperber.

Absent:         Kevin McManus, Trustee Liaison Leo Wiegman, and Planning Board Liaison Ted Brumleve.

The VEB considered two sign applications, followed by a discussion of several other issues related to the visual environment.

1. Croton Cleaners
The Board reviewed a sign application for Croton Cleaners, located at 2 Maple Street, which was submitted by Luis Saavedra.  As submitted, the internally illuminated sign featured green lettering on a white background.
VEB Discussion:
a.      In regard to the fonts in the sign, members suggested that it would be possible to enhance the sign’s readability by using a serif style type in the larger lettering, while the smaller type should be in a sans-serif font.
b.      The Board likewise agreed that the coloring of the sign should be reversed, with the background being made green and the lettering appearing in white.
VEB Recommendations
a.      The Board recommended approval of the sign with the suggestion that it be revised as discussed.

2.  Holy Name of Mary
Building Department Liaison Joe Sperber brought in a sign representation from Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church, which would be mounted as a free standing sign on the left side of the Church’s entrance on Grand Street.  As submitted, the sign would stand about 5.5 feet tall and 3.5 to 4 feet wide.~ The proposed background color of sign would be a very bright blue with gold lettering and white band with three empty text lines that apparently would contain a variety of messages.
VEB Discussion:
a.      VEB members agreed that the choice of blue in the proposed sign is ill-advised. The color is too intensely bright and strident for that very prominent location; one member suggested that it seems more suited to a high school sports team.  A more elegant and serene color—such as a muted or grayed blue, or perhaps a midnight or navy blue—would be far more appropriate to the Church’s architecture and function.  It would also help the elegant gold lettering stand out.  
b.      The Board questioned the use of white striped lines, wondering if the intention is to use removable lettering to spell out messages.  If so, members would caution that removable letters are subject to vandalism and theft.
c.      There was also some question as to whether any messages spelled out would be “informational” or “inspirational”—for instance, “Praise the Lord” would be an example of the latter.  The Board wishes to point out that, under the Village sign ordinance (P(1)(e)(2)), such signs are permitted so long as they function as "bulletin boards,"  as opposed to billboards.
d.      The Board expressed very strong concern about the proposed location of the sign. As pictured in the application, it would be very close to the edge of the sidewalk, where it would physically impinge on the pedestrian right of way. The Board asks that the applicant provide additional information about the proposed location and strongly advises positioning the sign closer to the church structure, where it can be sited just in front of the existing shrubbery.

VEB Recommendations
a.      Before recommending approval of the sign, the Board requests clarification as to where it would be placed relative to the sidewalk.
b.      The Board recommends that the applicant reconsider the colors used in the sign so that it blends in more harmoniously with the Church and the broader Upper Village setting.

3.  Temporary and Unapproved Signs
The Board discussed its concerns that many temporary signs in the Village remain up well after work has been completed.  In particular, members cited Franzoso Contracting as a frequent offender of the regulations, but other examples were discussed as well. The board also observed that, while more and more business owners comply with the permit process regulations, there are still those who proceed with the installation of signs without doing so.  For example, the former Coxen Sisters Deli in the Upper Village has erected a new sign without filing an application.

4.  Sign Ordinance Review
In addition, the Board discussed its commitment to the Planning Board to review the sign ordinance and prepare a handbook/best practices guide.  The next step will be to write a letter to the Planning Board laying out the VEB’s observations about the code based on several years’ experience.~ A guiding thought would be that the code needs to recognize the distinctiveness of the Upper Village and treat it differently from Croton’s other commercial areas, which more closely resemble conventional strip mall development.  The letter will suggest drafting an RFP and then requesting funding from the Village Board to hire a consultant who would review the sign ordinance from a professional perspective, including a review of similar codes; guided by input from the VEB, the consultant would develop  a palette of good sign applications from a variety of places, including Croton, and propose a sort of “business image overlay” that would establish the intended feel / style / motif / theme of each of our commercial districts.  The VEB has observed that a “holistic view” of the visual environment will be important, incorporating the findings of the comprehensive plan into the marketing of the Village and the differentiation of each district while preserving specific characteristics of the community as a whole.

5.  Meeting with Elton Robinson
A meeting to review a second round of preliminary logo designs with Elton Robinson is scheduled for October 6th.  VEB Chair Doug Wehrle will e-mail Elton to confirm the dates.

The Meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.