ZONING HEARING BOARD
MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING OF OCTOBER 23, 2007
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Tuesday, October 23, 2007 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: William J. Wall, Chairman; Victoria Bowe, Vice-Chairman; David Katz, Secretary; Gail Laughlin, and John Lenihan, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Michael Solomon, Zoning Officer and William Campbell, Stenographer.
Call to Order
Mr. Wall called the meeting to Order at 7:30 PM.
The Pledge of Allegiance
Continued Application of Kieffer & Company/Petsmart
Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been read into the record at a previous meeting. There was no one in attendance seeking party status.
Attorney David Sander represented the applicant. Mr. Sander explained that the Board of Supervisors had intended to oppose the application. He met in a work session with the Supervisors to review the request, and as a result of that meeting he is amending the application. The main Petsmart sign will be reduced to 133.70 square feet from 169 square feet. The letters will be 48 inches high on this sign. The applicant is still seeking two additional signs on the front façade, and is still seeking a height variance. The Supervisors have dropped their opposition. Mr. Sander thanked the Zoning Hearing Board for holding this special meeting, as the Petsmart is to open on Monday, October 29, 2007.
Nick Malley was sworn in. Mr. Malley is the active account manager for the Petsmart account. His firm manufactures storefront signs. He has been an account manager for three years. Kieffer & Company is an authorized agent for Petsmart.
Mr. Sander entered as Exhibit A-1, a letter from Stephanie Miller of Petsmart authorizing Kieffer & Company to act as Petsmart’s agent in this hearing, and as Exhibit A-2, a letter from Robert Shasha of Cotswold Group, owner of the Village at Newtown South shopping center, expressing support for the Petsmart signage.
Mr. Malley said that he has visited the site of the Petsmart store. It is located 360 feet from Eagle Road, behind a PNC Bank in the PC Planned Commercial Zoning District. The building is 20,000 square feet, attached to another space which is 12,500 square feet. There will be another, as yet unidentified, tenant in that space.
Mr. Sander entered the following exhibits:
Referring to Exhibit A-4, Mr. Malley said that the Petsmart portion of the building’s frontage is approximately 150 linear feet. The proposed sign will have 48 inch letters with a total length of 25 feet, 9 3/8 inches. The “Banfield” sign will be 17.25 square feet and the “grooming” sign will be 12.35 feet. The original application had proposed 54 inch letters, making the main sign 169 square feet. The sign has been reduced to address the concerns of the Board of Supervisors, who have dropped opposition to the application. The sign is smaller than the standard Petsmart package for a 20,000 square foot store. Mr. Malley said that the application seeks a variance to allow signs 17 feet above grade in order to center the sign above the main entrance door, and to be visible from Eagle Road.
Mr. Malley explained that Petsmart is also seeking two additional signs for grooming services and for Banfield. Banfield is a veterinary business that leases space in many Petsmart stores. It is a separate entity and not a subsidiary of Petsmart. There are not veterinary services in all Petsmart stores. Referring to Exhibit A-5, Mr. Malley said that the sign would be mounted at 9 feet above grade and will measure 17.25 square feet, and as such does comply with Township ordinances. The Banfield sign will be 20 inches high and 10 feet 8 ¼ inches in length. If Banfield were to leave Petsmart, and were not replaced by another, similar service, the applicant would be willing to remove the sign as a condition of approval.
Referring to Exhibit A-6, Mr. Malley said that the grooming sign is being requested because not all Petsmarts offer this service. Pets are groomed in an area that can be viewed by the public. The letters will be 15 inches high; the sign will be 9 feet 10 5/8 inches in length, a total of 12.35 square feet. This sign will also be placed 9 feet above grade.
Mr. Malley said that all signs will be lighted internally by LED; no neon or other gases are used.
Referring to Exhibit A-7, the plan for the shopping center, Mr. Malley showed that the view of Petsmart from the road is interrupted. Coming from the south, the building is obscured by the farmers market and by mature shrubs and trees, and only visible for a short distance along the road. It is at a higher elevation than the road, so that the berm partially obstructs visibility. The PNC Bank obstructs view directly in front of the building. Coming from the north, the view is obstructed partially by the medical office building and shrubs. There are only two locations, each about 15 to 20 feet, for unobstructed views. The building is 360 feet away from the road. Larger signage is important because of the obstructed views. No signs are visible from the Newtown Bypass and the signs have no adverse impact on adjoining properties.
In response to Mr. Lenihan’s questions, Mr. Malley said that Kieffer & Company represents Petsmart in all locations east of the Mississippi River. There have been only one or two instances where large signs were not permitted, but not where there was such a large setback. The 169 square foot sign is the standard package. There have been 42 inch signs used in some urban locations with stores directly on streets. On some very large stores the letters are 60 inches. Referring to Exhibit A-3, he said that the sign would be less than 4 feet above the door.
In response to Mr. Katz’s questions, Mr. Malley estimated that if 42 inch letters were used, the main sign would be 22.5 feet long; he was not sure of the length if 36 inch letters were used. He said that occasionally smaller signs are used on locations where signs are placed on multiple elevations. Those stores that have smaller signs are still in business, as far as he is aware.
Mrs. Bowe said that the sign is enormous for this property, especially since the property has an elevation above the road. She also questioned whether the Banfield sign could be reduced to be the same size as the grooming sign, to create a more symmetrical appearance.
Mr. Malley agreed that the store is higher than the road, but noted that when viewed from a moving car, the store is only visible for a very short distance, perhaps 15 to 20 feet; the view is obscured and partially obstructed by the berm along the road side. Regarding the Banfield sign, it would be possible to reduce the letters to 15 inches to match the “grooming” sign.
In response to Mr. Wall’s question, Mr. Malley said that changing the Banfield sign size should not add greatly to the cost.
In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s question, he said that he was not sure whether the smaller letters would be in stock and available for the Monday opening of the store. It is possible the Banfield sign in 15 inch size would have to be custom made.
Mr. Auchinleck asked about the suggested condition of removing the additional sign if the Banfield veterinary service were to leave the location.
Mr. Sander said that this was not a condition suggested or required by the Board of Supervisors. The applicant would agree to remove the signage for Banfield and for grooming and not replace them unless a similar service were to be offered.
Mr. Malley reviewed some variances granted for other stores in the PC district, including:
Regarding Mr. Katz’s comments on 42 inch letters, those signs have not been used on buildings set 360 feet from the road, and have been placed on buildings with signage on multiple sides of the building. This building is to have signage on only one side.
In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s questions, Mr. Malley said that the Langhorne Petsmart store has 54 inch letters; the grooming sign has 15 inch letters. There is no Banfield veterinary service at this location. The veterinary service is expected to open within a month. The 48 inch letters are in stock and can be installed immediately.
Mr. Solomon had no comment.
Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 1106(H)(4)(a), (c)(2)(a), and (d) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit three establishment identification signs for PETSMART, with the main sign measuring 133.70 square feet, a “Banfield” sign measuring 17.72 square feet and a “grooming” sign measuring12.35 square feet, a total of 163.77 square feet, with a height of 17 feet where the maximum is nine feet, subject to the condition that if “Banfield” ceases to lease space at this location, and is not replaced by a similar service, the sign is to be removed. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 8:45 PM. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary