Two Businesses Receive Variances for Taller Signs

Two Londonderry businesses requested variances to allow them to replace aging signs with new ones that are 16 feet tall. The Zoning Ordinance allows for 10-foot signs but in both cases, the existing signs were already 16 feet tall.

Chris Karras, representing 209 Northeast, a fleet services business, requested a variance before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) Wednesday, July 20 to replace an existing 16-foot rusting sign at 197 Nashua Road (Route 102) with a new 16-foot sign in the same location.

His argument for the variance was primarily based on the new sign’s being more attractive and that it would be an enhancement to the area. He pointed out it is the same size but newer than the existing sign, which was erected in 1972. He said the sign meets all setbacks and would not be seen by any other properties because there are none close to the location. The sign is set back 40 feet from the front lot line, when a 15-foot setback is required.

There was no public comment for or against the matter. The board said the proposed sign was better looking than what exists and needs to be 16 feet tall in order to be seen because it is set so far back from the road. The board also said that was a safety consideration, allowing trucks to be able to see the sign from the road without difficulty.

The proposed sign meets the intent and spirit of the ordinance because it is better looking and thus enhances the area, provides a safety factor, and provides for substantial justice because there are a number of 16-foot signs along Route 102.

There are no neighboring properties to be diminished, only forests and fields, so no diminution of property values would result, and a smaller sign would be a hardship and would make the business less easily identified, thus raising a safety issue for truckers. The height of the sign makes it visible to drivers going at the permitted speed.

The ZBA voted 5-0 to approve the variance request.

The second sign variance request came from the auto and truck sales business located at 214 Rockingham Road (Route 28) and owned by Moorecar Realty Trust. The trust had applied to replace the existing 16-foot sign with a new 16-foot sign and was denied and told to replace it with a 10-foot sign.

Peter March and Dan Hutchins of New Hampshire Sign Company explained that the location of the business on a curve in the road, with adjacent vegetation and a building on the property, would make a 10-foot sign difficult to see. They said the sign proposed is the same height as the existing sign and is needed for people to see the business, which depends on drawing people in who are driving by.

They also said the 16-foot sign is one of many higher than 10-foot signs along the road, and identified several in the neighborhood that are 20 to 24 feet tall. They said the new sign would enhance the area and attract business, whereas the 10-foot sign would limit visibility.

They added that justice would not be done by limiting their sign height when there are other signs in the neighborhood that are much higher. And they said the new sign would improve the neighborhood, while denial of a 16-foot sign would be hardship by reducing visibility for soliciting business when the business relies on the sign.

Only one person asked to see the sign and was not happy with the neon edge. The proponents of the sign said if required for acceptance, they could live without the neon border.

The ZBA members were concerned that the sign is “very busy.” Several were concerned that people driving by and trying to read everything on the sign would be distracted and cause a safety concern.

The applicants said they could accept three lines of text rather than the four proposed. The sign is lit but goes off one half hour after the business closes at night.

ZBA members said the spirit and intent of the ordinance was met by the new sign if the neon edge were removed and lines of text were limited. They said the height was needed because the business is on a curve in the road and trees and the building and curve interfere with visibility at a 10-foot height.

However the ZBA stipulated the sign be 16 feet tall from the low grade level, not from the existing flower box base.

No surrounding properties would be diminished because they all have similar signs along that stretch of Rockingham Road. The ZBA members agreed that denial would be a hardship for the business because of the property location and line of sight, and that the fact they are proposing replacing a sign with the same size as already exists is a reasonable use.

The ZBA approved the variance request 5-0 with the conditions that the sign proposed eliminate the neon border, reduce the number of text lines from four to three, and measure the total 16-foot height from low grade level.