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Business owner wants to raise electronic sign to new height

Published October 19. 2011 05:02PM

A Franklin Township business owner asked township supervisors on Tuesday whether she could raise an electronic sign on her property so it can be seen. Pam Fludgate, owner of the property of 450 Interchange Road, Franklin Township, said that after erecting the sign, a neighboring business put up a wooden sign right in front of her sign and now her sign can't be seen from the highway. She said that income from three advertisers was lost since the wooden sign was added.

Fludgate had applied for a variance to erect an oversize digital sign on her property. In January 2011, Franklin Township Zoning Hearing Board granted approval to the variance to erect a nine by four foot sign at her business, All Lit Up.

Fludgate applied for the original permit on Nov. 17, 2008 and it was signed by Carl Faust, the township's Uniform Code Officer, on Nov. 13, 2009.

Construction began late summer in 2010. The sign was an investment of about $35,000 and that another $25,000 covered the cost of development and installation of the base and support.

After Fludgate applied for the permit, the township adopted an ordinance that pertains to electronic signs in June 2009 which now requires applicants to seek conditional approval from township supervisors.

Fludgate rented space out on the sign to help pay the costs for it, plus she advertised other businesses within the building and off site businesses. The variance was granted with two stipulations, that there must not be too much brightness in the sign that would distract motorists, plus that the interval between messages must be no less than 15 seconds.

Fludgate asked supervisors if she can raise the sign about five feet to allow it to be seen from the highway. She said that the sign was not a small investment and she asked if supervisors could let her move up the sign or did she have to apply for a variance.

Rod Green, chairman, said that she must apply for a variance.

Fludgate said that when she wanted to erect the sign, she followed all rules and regulations, but that her neighbor had not done so. She said he simply put up the sign without any inspections and permits.

Gary Wentz, owner of the adjoining property said that his sign merely replaces one that had been knocked down by a tractor trailer and was missing. He said he has documentation that a sign had been there. The property had been formerly been "Car Country" when he purchased the property.

"The sign is the same size and height as before," said Wentz. "It was grandfathered. I went through the township and I have photographs and documentation that the sign is at the same place and height as the previous sign. All I did was replace it. I was told I didn't need a permit to replace a sign."

Matt Neeb, Franklin Township zoning officer, said that Wentz produced a notarized document from the previous owner of the property saying that the sign was in the same location and is the same exact size as before.

"Unless someone can prove otherwise, I have to accept the paperwork as a legal document," said Neeb.

Neeb said that he did tell Fludgate that she will need to apply for a variance because she wants to raise the sign five feet because it will mean changing electricity for the digital sign and changing the support system.

"It is a nonconforming use," said Neeb. "It will require a variance."

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