Zoning board rules that directory sign at Town Center must match businesses

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Town Center plaza on Western Avenue. 

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals on June 1 clarified its position on a two-year-old sign permit that had become an issue for some neighbors of the Town Center plaza on Western Avenue. 

In February, the town was made aware of what some residents had thought was a violation of the 1704 Western Ave. shopping center’s sign permit, specifically they felt the plaza was not following the conditions of approval laid out in the permit.

But Jacqueline Coons, Guilderland’s chief building and zoning inspector, made the determination that no enforcement action was needed. 

Resident Iris Broyde asked the town board in March what more could be done because the zoning board had been clear in its approval “around how that directory sign was going to be used,” but the photos she submitted showed the applicant “pretty clearly to be in violation.”

Apartments were being advertised on the sign that should not be advertised, Broyde asserted, as well as classified ads being shown on a sign meant to be a tenant directory. What brought Broyde to the town board in March was that she was looking for someone to explain to her who in Guilderland government has the “kind of authority to supersede” the inaction of “what looks like a very should-be-a-very-enforceable action.”

In the end, Broyde chose not to pursue an appeal of Coons’s determination but rather asked for an interpretation of Town Center’s sign permit. 

On June 1, the zoning board offered its response to Broyde’s request. 

Board member Elizabeth Lott, reading through the motion, gave the history of Town Center plaza’s permit request. 

Lott said the owner of Town Center plaza, the Wolanin Companies, in November 2019 requested that the board let Town Center replace its existing sign with a light-emitting diode, or LED, directory sign  “to show center stores” specifically located at 1704 and 1710 Western Ave. 

In March 2020, the board granted Wolanin Companies a permit for a two-sided 48-square-foot LED sign with the conditions that the sign:

— Dim automatically with the environment;  

— Have a 15-second panel time change;  

— Be kept in good repair;  

— Not have lighting detrimental to traffic;  

— Have wording that matches the approved signs currently on the buildings; and  

— Display business names only during that business’s hours of operation. 

Current board members Lott, Jacob Crawford, and Sharon Cupoli voted to approve the March 2020 permit. Chairman Thomas Remmert had voted against the application as had Sindi Saita, who is no longer on the board. 

Lott, continuing to read through the motion, said Town Center plaza’s LED sign was displaying three signs with which Broyde took issue:

—The first sign stated, “Retail space now available. (518) 456-9200 extension 102”;

— The second said, “New apartments now available. (518) 456-1700”; and

— The third sign stated, “1700 Designer Residences.”

It was the intention of the board at the time the sign permit was granted that the electronic directory sign would display only board-approved signs that already appeared on Town Center’s buildings, Lott said. 

“Specifically, the signs displayed must match or be the same as the signs on the Town Center storefronts which were previously approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals after undergoing the sign permit process,” she said.

“Further,” Lott went on, “it was also the intention that the signs would only be of those businesses located in the two buildings that make up the Town Center — those being the building currently occupied by Market 32 and the adjacent building that contains several businesses ….”

The three additional unapproved signs displayed on Town Center’s LED sign, Lott read, don’t satisfy the conditions set by the board in its March 2020 permit approval.

“The board determines that said signs are not allowed to be displayed, according to the sign permit,” she concluded. 

Lott, Crawford, and Cupoli voted to approve the motion, as did alternate member Stephen Albert, who was present at the March 2020 vote as the board alternate.

Remmert recused himself from the vote, having voted against the request two years ago. Richard Villa, who wasn’t part of the board at the time of the March 2020 approval, also recused himself from the vote. 

Remmert said there was nothing in the board’s June 1 decision that precluded Town Center plaza from requesting an amendment to its original sign permit, a request the board would consider. 

It was also noted that the Wolanin Companies would still be able to advertise the available space and apartments for rent on the properties where the actual leases would occur, like 1700 Western Ave. — the zoning code does permit temporary signs advertising available space for rent, Remmert said. 

“The request here was for an interpretation of the sign permit only,” Remmert said. “I know there are some other issues with the property there. But for now, we’re just addressing the sign permit.” 

One concern brought before the board in recent months was whether the four adjacent but separately-zoned Wolanin-owned parcels — 1704 and 1710 Western Ave. are zoned LB, or local business; 1700 Western Ave. is zoned MR, or multi-residential; and 6270 Johnston Road Rear, is zoned for a Planned Unit Development — should be considered one property for the purpose of the sign code.


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