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Planners deny CVS variance for second sign

By Staff | Jan 28, 2010

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Planning Commission denied a request made by JEC Funding – doing business as CVS Pharmacy – for a variance to Land Development Code Section 106-200, to allow for a maximum of two permanent signs at the site, located at 2331 Palm Ridge Road.

Garry Hicks from International Sign & Design, representing client CVS Pharmacy, was petitioning the commission for a second business sign on the property. The city’s LDC allows for only one permanent sign per business on the island.

Representing the city during the variance hearing was Roy Gibson, sitting in for Planning Department Director Jimmy Jordan, and Terri Cummins, Code Enforcement Officer.

“Staff has not found that the applicant has met all of the requirements for a sign variance,” said Gibson, who noted that the previous property owner, Eckerd Drugs, had also applied for and was denied a sign variance back in 1983.

According to Cummins, CVS Pharmacy had installed a second permanent sign on their property in July 2009, which prompted a letter from the city’s Code Enforcement Department to the business requesting the sign be removed. When the sign wasn’t removed, city officials sent CVS Pharmacy a second letter – on Oct. 15, 2009 – indicating that the unlawful sign must be removed within 45 days or would be subject to a $150 per day fine.

The applicant argued that they needed a second sign on their property because tourists unfamiliar with the area found it difficult to find the retailer, and that oftentimes drivers will pass the entrance to the business because their current sign isn’t highly visible.

During the hearing, commissioner Chuck Ketteman suggested that instead of a second sign at the site, the current sign could be made more visible through regular vegetation maintenance and trimming.

“Most visitors’ cars have GPS units in them. Some people have GPS on their cell phones,” added Ketteman. It’s becoming easier and easier to find places.

Cummins also noted that since the permanent sign at the property is smaller than the city’s code allows, they do have the ability to install a larger sign (up to 20 square feet) erected higher (up to 12 feet).

“The fact that we do have small signs, the fact that the signs are unobtrusive, that is part of Sanibel’s appeal,” said planner Tom Krekel.

Commission chair Michael Valiquette made a motion to deny the request, which was seconded by vice chairman Dr. Phillip Marks. Planners voted unanimously, 7-0, against the variance.

During commissioner comments, Paul Reynolds again addressed the panel, speaking about the City Council’s latest action to remove both the trigger point and code guidelines within the LDC Section 86-43 document.

“I believe we have had a majority on this panel, perhaps until now, who understood the unresolved problems of 86-43,” he said. “Most of us agreed there’s a problem, we just didn’t arrive at the same solutions.”

“Because of political grudge, political opportunity, will or wisdom, no City Council has been willing to touch this extra hot potato that is clarification of 86-43,” Reynolds stated. “This current council continues that tradition of abdication of duty. Those who count the number of times 86-43 has been to court and argue that clarification isn’t needed don’t understand or mislead the impact of a subjective 86-43 burden to our Planning Department, and as Sanibel’s 70’s built inventory of non-conforming homes approach renovation time, the shadow of 86-43 looms bigger and bigger.”

Reynolds further suggested that the commission needs “documented direction on the interpretation of this ordinance” and all they are getting is “a few hands of ‘Three-Card Monte’ from this City Council.”

Fellow commissioner Holly Smith noted that after attending last week’s council meeting, she felt like “the wind was taken out of my sails.”

“I do have some concerns for the Planning Department, because it seems that we are at the same point now that we were more than two years ago,” she added.

The City Council is expected to discuss alternations to LDC Section 86-43 at their next session, on Tuesday, Feb. 2. That meeting will begin at 9 a.m.

In other business, the commission selected members for four subcommittees of which they must send representatives. All seven members of the commission comprise the Land Development Code subcommittee.

Added to the Below Market Rate Housing subcommittee were Chris Heidrick, Smith, Marks and Krekel; Ketteman and Reynolds were added to the Capital Improvements subcommittee; Ketteman, Smith, Krekel and Valiquette were added to the Permit Process Review subcommittee.