Visual Environment Board Minutes 11-17-04
Advisory Board on the Visual Environment
Village of Croton-on-Hudson

Minutes:        VEB Meeting of Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Present:        Doug Wehrle, chair; Valerie Leis, Kevin McManus, Building Dept. Liaison Joe Sperber, and Trustee Liaison Leo Wiegman.

Absent:         Marianne Bosshart, Ross Weale, and Planning Board Liaison Ted Brumleve.

The VEB considered one sign application and discussed scheduling issues for the month ahead.

1. Riverside Four
The Board opened the meeting with a brief review of an application received from Riverside Four restaurant, to be located at 337 South Riverside in the building currently occupied by Elmer Suds.  The application had been submitted late and Building Dept. Liaison Joe Sperber had not had the opportunity to review it for code compliance.  After deciding to table the matter, however, the Board agreed to reopen the discussion—at least on a preliminary basis—when George Caratzas of FastSigns in White Plains arrived to speak on behalf of the applicant.  Mr. Caratzas had been detained in traffic due to the closing of Route 9A following a collision between a car and a tanker truck.
As submitted, plans for the freestanding sign—which overhangs the sidewalk in front of the restaurant—call for replacing the 3 foot by 4 foot panels in the existing Elmer Suds sign with new acrylic panels of the same size, bearing the new restaurant’s name.  The sign would utilize the existing pole and brushed aluminum frame; the latter is approximately 6 inches wide and functions essentially as a light box suspended an estimated 8 feet above the sidewalk.  The sign itself was designed by Alpha Graphics.  It features the name of the restaurant in lower case letters, separated by a splash of rainbow colors, above a cluster of aquatic-looking plants.  The word “Restaurant” appears in white against a blue background at the bottom of the sign, suggesting aquatic substrate.  The words “riverside” and “four” would range between 6 ¼ and 7 inches in height.  The sign would be internally illuminated by means of the existing fluorescent lights “sandwiched” between the acrylic panels.
VEB Discussion:
a.      Board members agreed that the principal question to be addressed is whether the sign would be permissible under code.  Although it simply substitutes new panels for the Elmer Suds sign, that existing sign was never submitted to the Board for approval and may not be in conformance with code.  A key question is the length of time the building was vacant prior to being occupied by Elmer Suds, which would serve as a yardstick for determining if the new sign will be allowed as a “grandfathered” freestanding sign.  Joe Sperber will examine and make a determination regarding issues related to the code.
b.      VEB member Valerie Leis expressed strong reservations about the way in which the sign extends over the sidewalk, where it might be considered as impinging visually on the pedestrian thoroughfare.  Existing code does allow “projecting signs” to be located above pedestrian right-of-ways provided at least 8 feet of clearance is maintained between the bottom of the sign and the sidewalk surface.  However, code also limits the height of freestanding signs to 10 feet from the ground to the top of the sign, except where such signs are associated with shopping areas and filling stations.  In addition, code stipulates that there be a setback of at least 25 feet between the curb line and the building façade for a freestanding sign to be permissible.
c.      Members also expressed the hope that the new owners will plant greenery and take other steps to make the front of the property significantly more attractive than is now the case.  Doug Wehrle noted the success of the Ocean House sign, which also reused an  existing stanchion to good effect.  
d.      Members agreed that, as presented, the sign itself displays an interesting graphic design and is otherwise acceptable in terms of appearance.
VEB Recommendations
a.      The Board agreed to recommend approval of the sign contingent on two factors:  satisfactory provision of information needed to complete the application and, most importantly, Joe Sperber’s determination as to whether or not the sign is permissible under code.
b.      The Board also recommends that, in the event that the sign is found to be code compliant, the applicant be required to restore the support post and cross piece in terms of surface condition and check/replace attachment hardware to ensure a safe condition.

2.  Discussion of Schedule
Based on an exchange of emails regarding plans for presenting the three logo designs to the Village Trustees and public, the VEB proposes meeting with members of the Village Board and invited department heads at a December 13th work session, followed by a presentation to the general public at the December 20th Village Board meeting.

In this context, the Board stated its preference to defer its catch-up meeting with the Planning Board until January, when work on the logo would be essentially wrapped up and the VEB can turn its attention to review of the sign ordinance and creation of a sign guide, as well as to other matters expected to arise as a consequence of its meeting with the Planning Board.

The Meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.