A representative of the Speedway gas station and convenience store on Route 102 came before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) seeking permission to convert an existing manual sign to a changeable electronic sign. The sign in question displays the current prices for gas.
A variance was required because Londonderry zoning ordinance 7.7.E.3 states that “Animated, moving, flashing, and noise making signs are prohibited. Changeable electronic message board signs are prohibited in all zoning districts.”
Before Speedway presented their case, the ZBA read into the record a letter from resident David Colglazier expressing concerns about the proposed sign. He said that based on similar signs he has seen elsewhere, he was concerned that a frequently changing sign could be distracting at night and may appear ugly and cheap. He asked that if granted, Speedway only be allowed to change the sign 1-2 times per day.
Presenting on behalf of the applicant, Carolyn Parker said that Speedway wanted to make the sign change to make it easier and safer for employees to change the fuel price display. She noted that today they have to use ladders or long poles to physically change the prices and that in snowy or wet weather this can be dangerous.
She added that the prices would be the only part of the sign that would change during the day and that she expected they would change once or twice per day. She added that when the prices changed, the change would be instantaneous with no flashing or blacking out, so that unless someone was staring at the sign, they would not notice the change.
Parker also said that she did not believe that the intent of the ordinance was to prevent signs of this type. She felt the intent was to prevent electronic advertising that contributed to visual clutter and that changed frequently.
She added that the upgraded sign would not change the character of the area since it is in a busy commercial zone and that making the change would not impact the health, safety and welfare of the public.
ZBA member Suzanne Brunelle asked why the numbers showing the price would be red since the current sign has white numbers. Parker said that it is a standard in the industry to show prices for gasoline in red and diesel in green.
Member Mitch Feig asked Parker how the proposed sign compares to those at other gas stations in town. She replied that every company and brand has their own unique requirements.
Brunelle pressed Parker to explain what made this property unique since that is one of the five criteria that must be met to grant a variance. Parker talked about the new trend to use LEDs in signs and the improved safety from not having to manually change the sign.
Feig asked why the ZBA had granted similar variances in the past. Other board members said that the uniqueness came from the federal requirement that prices be displayed and the safety risk of making changes manually in a high traffic area.
After brief deliberation, the board voted 5-0 to grant the variance.