BOA - May 20th 2014

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
MEETING MINUTES
Mayfield Village
May 20, 2014

The Board of Appeals met in regular session on Tues, May 20, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mayfield Village Civic Center Conference Room. Chairman Prcela presided.

(Printable PDF document)

ROLL CALL

Present: Mr. Joseph Prcela (Chairman), Mr. Paul Fikaris (Chairman Pro Tem), Mrs. Shirley Shatten, and Mr. Pat Caticchio

Absent: Mr. William Russ

Also Present:  Ms. Diane Calta (Law Department), Mr. David Hartt (Planning Director), Mr. Ted Esborn (Economic Development Director), Mr. John Marrelli (Building Commissioner), and Ms. Deborah Garbo (Secretary)

CONSIDERATION OF MEETING MINUTES: April 15, 2014

Mr. Caticchio, seconded by Mr. Fikaris made a motion to approve the Minutes of April 15, 2014.   

ROLL CALL

Ayes: Mr. Prcela, Mr. Fikaris, Mrs. Shatten, Mr. Caticchio

Nays: None                                      

Motion Carried. Minutes Approved as Written.

CONSIDERATION OF CASE NUMBER: #2014-03

Applicant:

Weber Wood Medinger
730 Beta Drive
Temporary Building Signage
A Sign Above

  1. A request for a 104 Sq. ft. area variance from Section 1185.15 (f) to allow for a 120 Sq. ft. temporary leasing sign at 730 Beta Drive facing 1-271.

 

Abutting Property Owners:

Beta Drive:
6671, 767-781, 761, 701, 600, 700, (731/735/739), 6685, 6650, 660, (6690/6700), 6680, 6660, 6670, 681, 780, 651, (730/740/750/760)

OPEN PORTION:

Chairman Prcela called the meeting to order. I was not at the last meeting, but read the minutes. I spoke with our Assistant Law Director, Ms. Calta and conferred with a few of my colleagues. I’m well up to speed at what was addressed at the last meeting.  Subsequent to the denial of the variance request from that meeting, I saw a copy of a letter from Weber Wood Medinger. I also know that our Planning Commission discussed this at length and put together some guidance for Board Members to review. I hope everybody’s had a chance to review those recommendations. I know a lot of times since we’re a Quasi-judicial body, we’re tasked with following the letter of the law. I think in this case the recommendation from Planning Commission, my discussions with Diane and John, it appears that some of our laws need to be amended going forward. With that being said, I’d like to open the floor to the applicant.

OATH
Chairman Prcela stated that anyone wishing to speak must be sworn in, administering the oath to the Board Members, Applicants, & Appellants and asked anyone wishing to speak to state their name and address for the record.

Denise Hahn with Weber Wood Medinger introduced herself. We’re a commercial real estate firm. We’ve been hired by the trust that owns Beta Center, Frank Woods, Inc. out of Philadelphia, to lease the buildings. Our goal is to lease space and bring more jobs to the Village. We use on-line marketing but signage is definitely a big part of the marketing. There’s an existing in-ground sign on Beta Dr. One of the neat things about this 760 building is that it faces the highway. We’re looking to get a variance for a temporary vinyl sign of 120 sq. ft. on the building facing 271 which was the same size of what was up there with the previous leasing company, also the same size that Grubb & Ellis has @ 600 Beta.

Denise introduced David Smith with A Sign Above. David’s helped put together a rendering of what that sign would look like. It’s a standard part of marketing for any commercial property with vacancy. I’d be happy to answer any questions.

Ms. Calta asked about the vacancy now.

Denise Hahn replied probably 26% occupied in that building. There’s one chunk available at 760, the building facing 271, it was Textron, very high-end warehouse space, sealed floor and a lot of power. Are we going to get a tenant to fill 40,000 sq. ft. from the sign? Maybe not. Frankly, lots of tenants of that size are represented by a broker and will know the space is available. However, we absolutely gets calls from signage. For example a tenant in Mentor sees that they can have signage and they know it’s a great opportunity. It’s only going to help our efforts to fill up the space. To clarify, the rendering passed out is the back of the building facing 271.

Mr. Caticchio referred to the draft handout amendments by Planning Department; 1185.14 SIGNS PERMITTED IN ANY DISTRICT. We’ll give our input on this, but we shouldn’t be considering it.

Ted Esborn said the reason you have the draft is because the Planning Department’s recommendation to grant the variance is largely based on the fact the variance request is consistent with what we’ve come up with.

Mr. Caticchio said this has not been passed by Council yet, therefore is not part of the code. Is that correct?

Ted Esborn replied, correct.

Mr. Caticchio asked if we’re putting the cart before the horse.

Ms. Calta replied not in this instance, probably not the usual way that things transpire. To answer, you’re not putting the cart before the horse.

Chairman Prcela said the recommendation is that with some contingencies, we grant the 104 sq. ft. variance with the hope the code will be revised for Beta.

SIGN MATERIAL

Mr. Marrelli asked about the material.

David Smith with A Sign Above replied it’s a Weblon durable vinyl banner. The previous banner we had up there, we relied on another vendor and that was the 2nd banner that failed us this winter. We’re going back to a heavier 18 ounce material that will do a better job of sustaining itself throughout the winter. It should last for several years.

Mr. Marrelli said assuming this is approved, it’ll probably stay there for years, have you considered doing something more permanent? What about MDO with paint on it?  

David Smith replied we certainly can. I’d like to go a step better with corrugated plastic, it comes in full sheets like MDO, but lighter weight, less stress on the building.

Mr. Marrelli asked if there’s a reason he’s keeping the two mounting strip rails up that are hanging on both sides of the sign. They look silly. It’s something the previous company left up there.

David Smith replied those two rails give us opportunity to put more fasteners into them than into the building itself. Let’s put the sign up first, remove the excess and fill the voids.

Max coverage; 25% of the 120 sq. ft. to identify the Entity

Mr. Marrelli said if and when we pass this ordinance, you’re only allowed 25% of the sign with your information on it.

Chairman Prcela thinks this seems a little ambiguous. I don’t know if that 25% is for name, phone number or company. I know there’re legal requirements for the sign for identification purposes.

Denise Hahn said correct. I’d like to have my name on it, don’t know if there’s room for that. I want people to be able to read the phone number whizzing by.

Mr. Marrelli asked if there’s a reason why the phone number doesn’t go to the owner of building then they can refer the call to the broker. 

Denise Hahn replied we’re hired to do it. They’re not going to call the Trust in Philadelphia. That’s standard everywhere, every single leasing sign you see is going to go to the brokerage firm, unless they don’t have a broker handling the building.

Mr. Marrelli asked Denise if she’s found any other signs up and down 271.

Denise Hahn replied Alpha Pk. and 600 Beta.

Mr. Marrelli said Highland Hts., those numbers go back to the Klotzman family who does their own leasing. They own the buildings.

Ted Esborn said the signs on the front lawns on Beta are for brokers, even Panzica’s buildings are for brokerages.

Chairman Prcela agrees the building owner doesn’t want to be fielding calls. I think Denise’s company probably knows the players in the market better. I think our ultimate goal by granting this is to get these buildings leased out.

Mr. Marrelli explains the concern from the last meeting, having the brokers name out there for $400 and having 100,000 cars a day see it.

Denise Hahn said it’s standard in the industry whoever’s representing the owner, to have their sign.

Mr. Marrelli asked, if somebody calls this number for this location, you can’t talk to them about anything else?

Denise Hahn replied I can talk to them about whatever I want to. Generally, if they’re calling on this property, they want space in this area.

Mrs. Shatten said but you could sell space somewhere else to them.

Denise Hahn replied, I could.

Mrs. Shatten said you’re actually advertising for your brokerage firm. To me, that isn’t want the purpose is. The purpose is to sell or lease that building.

Denise Hahn said I understand what you’re saying. If you look at any sign in front of any building, it’s going to go to the brokerage firm. This is a market where people if driving past they want to be off of Wilson Mills generally. They’re not going to ask me about stuff I have Downtown.

Chairman Prcela said correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think the intent is for Weber Wood Medinger to get their name out there for advertising purposes.

Mrs. Shatten said it’s like a billboard. She should be paying the Village money for advertising.

Ms. Calta said we discussed this at length, where you draw that line between free advertising and a requirement that they be able to identify themselves. I did a little research. There’s a State Law Revised Code Section that talks about brokers & realtors and when they put signs up like this, they need to identify who they are. That’s why we came up with the 25%. We didn’t think 25% was excessive. It allowed you to comply with the law, yet we didn’t think the 25% was turning itself into a free billboard. If the State Statue wasn’t there, I think we’d be on better footing to say “No names, just phone numbers”.

Chairman Prcela said I’m hearing John would like to see something more substantial, corrugated plastic.

Mr. Marrelli replied yes, corrugated plastic. The canvas and the paper doesn’t work. If we’re going to look at these for a long time, they need to be clean, neat & sturdy.

Chairman Prcela added if approved, the recommendation would be for a six month renewable term to give John forcibility.

David Hartt said that would be the condition of not extending it, that it looked dilapidated, shabby & falling apart. We have to recognize that the leasing need is probably on a fairly continuous basis. That’s why we expect these things are going to be renewed and stay up for multiple 6 month periods, as long as they’re in good condition.

Banner signs facing 1-271 should be distinguished in the code from real estate signs along the frontage on Beta Drive, and should have different standards.

Ted Esborn said this is the first bullet point on our recommendation memo. Right now the code has one area standard for real estate signs and the way we’ve been interpreting that is on the front. So we’re saying banners facing 1-271 should have their own standards independent of the front yard signs on Beta.

Mr. Marrelli said we also looked at the geography. If you would consider 271 as a street and Beta as a street, it’s not on a corner where you could have two fronts. I looked at it as 2 fronts.

Section 1185.14 SIGNS PERMITTED IN ANY DISTRICT

Mr. Caticchio suggests setting aside the variance request for the moment and moving on to the new code language to be included in our zoning code; Section 1185.14.

Chairman Prcela thinks it makes more sense to discuss the new language after the vote.

Ms. Calta said we’re looking at this variance based upon the recommendation which is tied to the proposed language. We probably do want to get your comments out to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Chairman Prcela asked, do we want that in the discussion of the case?

Mr. Caticchio doesn’t think so. But we do want it in the language of the decision we make that it shall be pursuant to the new proposed language to be approved by Council. I think we need to discuss this tonight though, to get the final language in place that we’re going to recommend to Ted.

Chairman Prcela said just because we recommend the language, doesn’t mean that it’s going to get approved by anybody.

Ted Esborn said correct me if I’m wrong. Planning Development Department got the request for feedback & recommendation. If we had not gone so far as to draft revised code language, we still would have come back to you tonight with a recommendation to grant this variance based on the fact we think 120 sq. ft. is a good standard and the 25% for identifying the individual to be contacted is a good standard.

David Hartt said your action at the last meeting denied the application and suggested it go to the Planning Dept. for review. It was a eureka moment for us because it hit us that it is a unique situation on 1-271. If you look at the 600 Beta sign, that’s really not too big. Yet, that has the smallest fascia area for a sign. This has a bigger panel area. So the same size sign is going to look better and more in proportion. Then we said the variance that was proposed is reasonable based on the circumstances of that frontage. Then we said we ought to go one step further so the property owners don’t have to go through the variance process, recognizing the uniqueness and come up with a proposed amendment to the code. That’s where we are.

Chairman Prcela said I’d like to see the discussion we’ve had introduced into this case and the recommendation memorandum from the Planning Dept. and leave the proposed code language for another topic of conversation. We have to grant a variance based on the code today.

Chairman Prcela asked John if there’s been any residents or abutting property owners that have had any objection to this.

Mr. Marrelli replied none.

DECISION:

Mrs. Shatten, seconded by Mr. Fikaris made a motion to approve the request for a 104 sq. ft. area variance from Section 1185.15 (f) to allow for a 120 sq. ft. temporary leasing sign at 730 Beta Drive facing 1-271 contingent upon:

  • The sign shall not exceed 120 square feet of total sign coverage with no more than 25 percent of the 120 square feet or actual total sign coverage, whichever is less, used to identify the entity or individual to be contacted.
  • Remove existing excess rails on building.
  • Corrugated plastic material recommended.
  • The sign shall be permitted for an initial six month period. The initial six month period shall be automatically extended, by approval of the Building Commissioner, so long as the sign is found to be in good condition and repair and not in an unsightly, hazardous or deteriorating condition and complies with all the provisions of C.O. Section 1185.08.

 

ROLL CALL:

AYES: Mr. Prcela, Mr. Fikaris, Mrs. Shatten, Mr. Caticchio            

NAYS: None                           

Motion Carried.  Variance Approved with Conditions As Noted.

Right to Appeal

Chairman Prcela stated written notice will be mailed by the Building Department confirming the decision and any interested party has the right to appeal within 10 days.

Chairman Prcela stated, I’d like to close the official meeting and open up for discussion on the proposed sign code language.

Denise Hahn and David Smith thanked the Board and left the meeting at 8:00 p.m.

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1185.14 SIGNS PERMITTED IN ANY DISTRICT
Proposed
Draft Language

OPEN DISCUSSION:

Mr. Fikaris said if the recommendation as discussed was that we make allowance for this occurrence and if we can have a measure of control, o.k.. It’s a limited number of properties, just 271 frontage. It’s one of these things, is this our problem or not? Once we introduce this, it’s not going to go away, based on this language. The last meeting, we were all very ambiguous about what we were treading. Now we have this that applies. My feelings, I still have them, but they kind of go out the window. I guess that’s fine, but hopefully it won’t just become part of the landscape.

Mr. Caticchio said it will, especially with this new language.  

Chairman Prcela said my personal feeling, and I’m in the business, I can see this getting real ugly real fast. I just don’t want to see a lot of banners on these buildings.

Ms. Calta said this limits it to one and limits the size. I think the first question everybody asked was what’s the harm in allowing these signs to be facing 271, on this limited frontage area, on these limited units, in a market like this where the sign won’t go up for 3 weeks and you have it rented and the sign comes down, or you put it up for 4 weeks and the building gets sold. It’s not the market place we’re in. If they are going to be up there, how do we put some requirements on so it doesn’t look bad? These aren’t pole signs, aren’t standing signs, aren’t billboards. They’re located on the buildings. David & Ted looked at the buildings, looked at the possibilities. Do you want to say this is a start of going down a path? I think it is a path. If this is a path we want to go down, the next discussion is Beta frontage.

David Hartt said that path is a different scale. Now the question is whether the different scale on 271 is appropriate. You’re already going down that path on Beta frontage. You’ve already got the same rights, the right to a real estate sign, could be so much square feet, you don’t control the content, the number goes to the broker, the broker’s name’s on that sign.

Chairman Prcela’s concern is what the future holds as these signs get bigger and bigger.

Mr. Marrelli notes that 120 sq. ft. will be the maximum for lease or for sale.

Mr. Caticchio states, my problem with this is we’re giving the Building Commissioner the duty to enforce it. On the other hand, you’re tying his hands.

“The sign shall be permitted for an initial six month period. The initial six month period shall be automatically extended by approval of the Building Commissioner, so long as the sign is found to be in good condition and repair and not in an unsightly, hazardous or deteriorating condition and complies with all the provisions of C.O. Section 1185.08”

I would never use the words; “shall be automatically extended”. With that language, you’ve set up a perfect storm for a law suit because now you’ve got an argument as to who decides how good that condition of that sign should be. It should be left up to your discretion as to whether or not it should be extended when they come to you for a renewal.

Ms. Calta said under 1185.08 John already has that description. We didn’t want someone coming in and making it permanent. We didn’t want John at every six months running out there, filing paper work and saying it’s extended.

Mr. Caticchio asked, are you telling me they don’t have to come back every six months?

Mr. Marrelli replied that’s correct. If this goes into effect, you won’t have to ever approve one again.

Mr. Caticchio asked, the sign stays up there forever until death do us part?

Mr. Marrelli replied or until they get shabby and need to be replaced.

Chairman Prcela thinks this is a step in the right direction.

Mr. Marrelli said we keep dragging these people in here every six months to show us their banner, they ask if they can keep it, we say o.k.

David Hartt said it sounds silly, but in effect it’s a permanent right for a temporary sign.

Mr. Caticchio said that was the discussion at our last meeting. Do we want to create a sign ordinance in perpetuity?

Mr. Marrelli said the intent is so that these agents don’t have to come to the Board of Appeals. They’ll come to me. We’re taking their needs and plugging it into our zoning code because we realize it’s a unique situation. We only have a handful of buildings. The history shows that we renew them just about every time. We want these buildings leased.

Chairman Prcela said I think we’re trying to be more amicable to businesses.

Ted Esborn said our interest in filling the buildings is so strong and a brokerage has the resources to do that. We don’t want the property owner to have to track that six months.

Mr. Fikaris asked if there’s any stipulation for change of ownership or brokerage.

Mr. Marrelli replied that would be a new sign. They have to get a new permit for a new sign. We’re trying to be pro-business and help our business owners.

Ms. Calta said if you compare the visibility on 271 vs. visibility on Beta which is more of an issue for too many signs, not the right kind of signs, etc. If these people that are on 271 can put up these signs, I think it’s going to help with the next step which is more uniformity on Beta. There’re a lot of signs that aren’t in conformance on Beta. This may be opening up and giving more flexibility on 271, but that’s a freeway, you’re not driving 35 mph. Beta though, that’s a main artery of the Village. I think when we come back with a plan to tighten up Beta, it should work. There’s a bigger plan in place here.

Mr. Caticchio asked, in the alternative of not considering variances, do we have enough language in the zoning code regarding the duties and responsibilities of the Building Commissioner that he could enforce?

Mr. Marrelli replied, yes. In the sign code and zoning code, it gives me the authority to enforce the rules. The rules in this case are pretty simple. I have that authority. Again, it’s a matter of trying to be business friendly and still enforce the law.

Ted Esborn said this complex at 730 Beta is a large amount of square footage, somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 square feet split up over 4 buildings. This one sign is helping to fill lots of space. Rockwell is a tenant in this space and down the street, a huge revenue to the Village from a tax perspective.

BETA OCCUPANCY

Mr. Fikaris asked about Beta occupancy.

Ted Esborn replied occupancy is high 70’s. We’ve been in the low 80’s in the last 5 years a couple times. In April I reported to Council 5 new businesses moving in. It’s harder to track the smaller groups moving in & out. It’s tougher to track them leaving, we have no mechanism for that.

Chairman Prcela asked how new tenancy’s tracked.

Ted Esborn replied Occupancy Permits.

Mr. Caticchio asked how other surrounding light industrial subdivisions are doing.

David Hartt replied it’s about a 20% vacancy rate in the region. The problem is with that number it’s including buildings that will never be re-occupied. You never know when the brokers take those buildings off the roles. Of all the vacancies, you have 1/3 that’ll never be re-occupied, 1/3 of really good stuff (they come & go) and 1/3 older buildings experiencing midrange functional obsolescence (low ceilings, column spacing, short on loading docks).

Chairman Prcela said the Jennings area, lot of those were converted from light industrial to office call centers. A lot of those were vacant for so long.

Mr. Marrelli asked what they’re getting dollar wise per sq. footage when they convert from light industrial to call center. 

Chairman Prcela replied they’re buying them for $2 to $3 per sq. ft. and renting for $10 sq. ft. It’s a winner. Might be something we want to chase if we want that kind of density.

Ted Esborn said that’s the dilemma. We have two large vacant Beta buildings; 600 & 6660. If one were completely occupied by an entertainment use that didn’t necessarily have a large payroll, then yes, occupancy could be at 90%. You’d have a whole building occupied.

Chairman Prcela said I don’t know that payroll tax is a 100% go with all either. Entertainment traffic would drive up retail.

Mr. Marrelli said sometimes you want to put things in that your citizenry could use; a restaurant, movie theatre, Playhouse, some kind of quality of life.

ADJOURNMENT:

Mr. Caticchio, seconded by Mr. Fikaris made a motion to adjourn the meeting.

ROLL CALL

Ayes: All

Nays: None                             

Motion Carried. Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.