Sunnyway Foods can’t add exit sign in Greencastle

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Sunnyway Foods wanted to add a sign to the exit to match the one at the entrance, as well as letters to inform the public of the services inside. The Greencastle Zoning Hearing board said no.

The long facade of renovated Sunnyway Foods will not get a sign at the exit, due to a ruling by the Greencastle Zoning Hearing Board on April 23.

Owner Ladean Martin and spokesman Angela Garland, former Antrim Township zoning officer, asked the borough for a variance from its sign ordinance, which allowed only one sign attached to and parallel to a building facing a street in a highway commercial zone.

In the final stages of modernizing the exterior of the 60-year-old business, Martin had installed a large Sunnyway logo over the entrance, but wanted another at the other end, as well as lettering in the middle to indicate the departments of the grocery store.

Hearing board members Michelle Emmett, Emile Charest and Gerald Pool took testimony along with solicitor Jeffrey Evans.

Garland said the store had been constructed before any borough regulations were in place, and the upgrading was to make it more appealing. The two new signs combined would be smaller than the old one that was taken down. Because of structural dictates in keeping a roof over the drive through loading area, the roof and facade had to be the way they had been completed, she said.

She explained how Sunnyway met the five required exclusions, which meant the ordinance created a hardship for the business. The points were that unusual circumstances existed, that there was no other way to finish the project, that the applicant did not create the hardship, that a variance would not change the characteristics of the neighborhood, and that a variance would be for minimal modifications from the ordinance.

The signs would help customers understand all of the features available at the store, and also add clarity for the one-way doors. Garland showed photographs of other businesses in town which did not meet the ordinance. Another one with a long façade had nine signs. Many had two or more.

Greencastle zoning officer Susan Armstrong said some of the signs might be existing non-conforming, in place before the ordinance was revamped in 2014. She planned to investigate.

Martin also testified. He said there were engineering issues because the sidewalk was made ADA compliant, which added four feet to its width. Sunnyway also had two doors, which the corporate stores did not.

“For a competitive advantage, we needed to do something,” he said. “I believe this is good for the community.”

He and his brother, co-owners since December 2012, knew they had to do something as a result of a customer service survey. People saw the exterior as outdated.

“I don't want to spend more money than I have to,” Martin continued, “but I need to do this right. I have lived here my whole life. I would never do anything detrimental to the community.”

Pool agreed that the borough had perhaps “let the cat out of the bag” with some of the excess signage around town. Emmett said the signs not meeting the ordinance were an enforcement issue, outside of their responsibility.

The board met for nearly a half hour to deliberate. They returned to deny the application 2-1, with Pool outvoted.

“Your arguments don't meet the standards,” said Emmett.

Evans said variance standards were very strict and limited. A hardship was more than aesthetics and economics and the ordinance clearly said one sign.

“It is unfortunate this board can't change the ordinance.”

Martin replied, “This is unfair.”

Emmett and Armstrong encouraged him to ask borough council to change the ordinance.

“Again, the problem is time and money,” said Garland.