How big and how many golden arches in Guilderland?

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

McDonald’s, at 1602 Western Ave. in Guilderland, is upgrading and seeking a variance for more signs.

GUILDERLAND — On June 3, as the zoning board discussed a variance request for signs at McDonald’s, the board chairman said the code on signs needs to be reevaluated.

“The sign section of the zoning code needs to be looked at, especially in light of the recent approvals of electronic signs,” said Thomas Remmert.

Several citizens raised philosophical issues. “We need to have a conversation about a building advertising plan where the town is expected to subvert its protocols for what corporate marketing research has decreed as what they need to have,” said resident Iris Broyde.

Current town code would permit two signs of 50 square feet. The McDonald’s at 1602 Western Ave., at the corner of Church Road, is seeking a variance for six signs that total 196 square feet.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, the board’s meeting was televised and citizens — four of them — called in to make comments. All four were opposed to the variance.

After a lengthy discussion, the board decided to continue the hearing at its next meeting on June 17.

“Yes, this requires a variance but I don’t think it’s out of line,” said Chairman Remmert at the start of the board’s discussion.

He reminisced how, as a youth, he got his first McDonald’s hamburger, for 15 cents, at the site, which used to house an A&W.


The plan

Steve Wilson of Bohler Engineering, speaking for McDonald’s, thanked the board for “pushing the process along.” He said McDonald’s has a “sizable investment” in the property and hopes “to proceed as soon as the COVID dust, so to speak, settles.”

He also said that more than half of McDonald’s business is “impulse driven” and that signs are an important part of that. Most drivers on Western Avenue, with its seven lanes of traffic, Wilson said, will not turn around once they’ve passed McDonald’s.

Since the roof is being removed as part of the renovation, Wilson said, McDonald’s will compensate with additional wall signs.

Currently, the red roof has a series of white arch-like structures all along its edges as well as signs in its windows. With the renovation, Wilson said, “It’s not going to look like McDonald’s.” He also said, “Signage is a critical part of McDonald’s investment in the property.”

McDonald’s is proposing two wall arches of 14 square feet each as well as a series of 18 small wall arches of 1 square foot each.

In addition to wall-mounted arches, which are to be lit, McDonald’s proposal calls for a 22-square-foot PlayPlace sign and a 50-square-foot monument sign on Church Road. Initially, Remmert thought this was “a good idea.”  

“Unless you’re in a helicopter, you can’t see both signs,” he said, referencing directional signs on Church Road along with a tall pole sign on Route 20, which is to remain.

Ultimately, at planning board member Jacob Crawford’s suggestion, board members recommended the monument sign be eliminated and, instead, the directional signs be enlarged with golden arches on them.

Board member Sharon Cupoli lamented the loss of “a classic McDonald’s structure.”


Citizens object

Resident Robyn Gray said the added signs “don’t appear to be in keeping with the neighborhood.” She also said of McDonald’s, “There’s no mistaking it… Plus, you can smell the grease.”

“That’s why I keep my window up,” said Wilson with a laugh, referencing a diet.

Gray also noted that the nearby Burger King has just a pole sign and asked, “What’s so special about McDonald’s?”

Remmert responded, “I don’t feel their request is out of line. They basically want to replace what’s there now.” 

He noted that signs displayed through glass windows, which McDonald’s has now, don’t count as signs. Since the glass is being removed, the wall signs are replacing the window signs, he said.

“McDonald’s has been there over 50 years; Burger King has not,”said Remmert.

Broyde named four nearby restaurants that she said all complied or nearly complied with the code. “No eating establishment in the vicinity begins to approach this overreach,” she said, calling it “totally out of proportion” and a “competitive threat” to comparable establishments.

Broyde also said McDonald’s golden arches are highly recognizable and that tripling the allowable size for signs will have an adverse effect on the neighborhood.

“There is zero justification,” she concluded.

Resident Karen White called the Church Road driveway “dicey” and said it is “nearly impossible” to make a left turn there. She expressed concern that the monument sign would make it less safe.

White noted that the Albany County Planning Board had urged the Guilderland zoning board to consider the precedent-setting nature of the request. White said it “adds to the whole one-ups-manship thing we have going on on Western Avenue … The car-wash guy didn’t need a variance either but you gave it to him.”

White concluded that the county board is trying to warn of “a slippery slope and it’s only going to create more problems down the road.”

She concluded, “It certainly doesn’t make Western Avenue more attractive.”

Remmert responded that the county planning board uses the caution about precedent-setting “almost like a rubber stamp.”

Finally, resident Gerd Beckmann urged board members to “think of the entire cumulative effect.”

More Guilderland News

  • “I had my life flashing before my eyes,” said Lisa Chrysler of the moment before her son saved her. “When he gave me the Heimlich, I bent over and, within 30 seconds, I felt it go away … He stayed so calm and has been so humble ever since.”

  • The now-1,200 square-foot Pakistani restaurant will be housed in the former Subway sandwich shop. The space has been under construction for some time, but now, with a permit in hand, it can open for business. Nadia Raza, Curry Patta’s owner, told The Enterprise she anticipates opening the weekend of Dec. 4.

  • So far this school year, the Guilderland school district has had 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The district enrolls close to 5,000 students.

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