Red Hook village planners have withdrawn their approval for a new internally illuminated sign at the Sunoco gas station (formerly Getty) next to the post office. And they’ve accepted a standard sign that conforms to zoning code instead.
Claiming that village officials would not issue a building permit because the LED sign violated code, planning board chair Everett Pearsall took LEDs off the table when the controversy returned to the board at its July 12 meeting.
The planners were then presented with a new proposal from Matthew Signs and NW Sign Industries for a sign conforming to the current zoning requirements for size, height and illumination. The original sign approved at the planners’ June 14 meeting was 16 feet tall, internally lit and used LEDs — all of which defied zoning code.
The new sign will be 10 foot tall, externally illuminated, with manual numbering.
Matt Kusewich from Matthew Signs made his pitch to the board to keep the LED number changers on the new, shorter sign.
“These changeable copy letters are getting phased out. Most gas stations are changing over to the LEDs. They’re not as intrusive as you think they would be, especially in a small village like this,” said Kusewich. “If we get a bad winter like we had the year before, these things will freeze up in there. It will be tough for these guys to get the letters in and out of there. Just the convenience for the operator to push a button [to change the prices].”
But Pearsall disagreed.
“I think the issue we still have is getting around an internally lit or self-illuminating sign. And I think that an LED sign qualifies. And I think that’s the issue that’s brought us back here today,” said Pearsall, who was not at the meeting where the original sign was approved. “The village is saying it cannot issue a building permit because the sign that has been approved does not meet the village code.”
A number of the board members were clearly unhappy about not being able to approve the LEDs and the original sign based on the fact that the old sign was the same height and internally lit. But the board’s attorney made it clear that when a sign is changed, it must conform to the law.
“It can be continued as long as it’s not changed. Once it’s changed, it has to become conforming,” said George Rodenhausen, the attorney.
Planning board member Paul Fredricks suggested this was not the first time illegal signage has been approved in the village.
“I’m a neighbor of the Mobil gas station and they have two internally lit signs that are 35 square feet each. And that was approved even though the code said internally lit signs aren’t allowed,” Fredricks said. “CVS pharmacy has a huge sign against the building that is internally lit…. Now all of a sudden, you’re taking a stance and saying this will not be allowed?”
Rodenhausen replied, “If it’s been done wrong in the past, it doesn’t make it possible to do it again.”
And he added, “Whatever this says, it says ‘No internally lit signs period’ has to be observed by everyone: the zoning board and this board.”
After some further discussion, the old approval was rescinded and the new revised sign without internal lighting and LEDs was approved unanimously by the five member board in a single action.
The Sunoco applicant will now have to decide whether to ask the village ZBA to weigh in on the question of whether LED lighting qualifies as internal illumination.