BERLIN – The Berlin Butcher Shop will be allowed to keep its pylon sign following a decision by the town’s board of appeals.
On Wednesday, the board of appeals voted unanimously to overturn the October decision of the Berlin Historic District Commission (HDC) not to permit the Berlin Butcher Shop’s pylon sign, which had been installed without commission approval.
“There wasn’t any clear-cut reason for denying the sign,” board of appeals member Jay Knerr said.
In October, Lisa Hall of the Berlin Butcher Shop asked the HDC to approve the pylon sign she’d already installed. The commission denied that request, prompting Hall’s hearing with the board of appeals Wednesday.
Hall’s attorney, Paul Abu-Zaid, told the board Hall had made no changes to the pole the sign sat on, which dated back to the building’s days as a gas station, but had simply repainted the plexiglass at the top with her business’ logo.
“The size is the same, the plexiglass is the same,” Abu-Zaid said.
Knerr asked Hall why the HDC had voted not to approve the sign.
“My understanding was they wanted the whole pole to go away,” Hall said. “The pole was rusty. They didn’t like the colors of the sign.”
Knerr asked whether the pole could be removed. Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, explained that it could not.
“The historic commission can’t direct it to be taken down,” he said. “That was not the issue before them.”
Knerr pointed out that even if the HDC decision stood and the sign had to be taken down, the large pole itself would still remain.
Abu-Zaid, referencing the HDC minutes, said that nevertheless the commission’s discussion focused on the height of the pole and the fact that it had been more suitable for a gas station. He said that according to town code, the commission was supposed to decide whether a property was of historical significance and go from there.
“There was no discussion of that at all,” he said.
Abu-Zaid went on to say that the town didn’t have extensive guidelines for property owners like some municipalities did.
“The language with respect to the historic commission does not give a whole lot of guidance to people,” he said.
When the board asked if there was any comment from the public, Berlin resident Mitchell David said he didn’t see a problem with the sign. He pointed out that the sign itself mirrored the one above the butcher shop’s front door — the one the HDC had approved.
“It’s the same sign that was approved for her building,” he said, adding that Hall had made no changes to the existing pole aside from painting the logo on the plexiglass. “She didn’t structurally change the accessory.”
Though Carol Rose, chair of the HDC, was prepared to comment, Abu-Zaid objected. Board of appeals member Woody Bunting agreed.
“New information wouldn’t be appropriate,” he said.
Knerr made the motion to overturn the HDC’s decision on the sign. He said he’d read the minutes and did not think it was clear why the commission had denied approving the sign.
“I’m confused as to why they liked the one on the building but not this one,” he said.
“I don’t understand what was being denied,” he said.
The board voted 4-0 to permit the sign.