Zoning Board of Adjustment rejects Rowan Regional's bid for new sign

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
The city has turned back a request from Rowan Regional Medical Center for a new sign at Mocksville and Confederate avenues.
The Salisbury Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 5-0 Monday to deny a variance for the sign.
Randy Souther, representing Rowan Regional, said the hospital wanted to replace the present sign at the corner with a new sign reflecting the design and colors of Novant.
Rowan Regional recently merged with Novant. The present L-shaped sign at the corner already is nonconforming. It gives directional arrows for the emergency room, outpatients, visitor parking and the Smith Heart and Vascular Center.
The sign was allowed and installed about 10 years ago within a sight triangle. It is nonconforming because it is in the sight triangle for motorists and is, at its tallest, about 6 feet high.
Zoning Administrator David Phillips said if the present sign were removed, a new structure or sign placed in the sight triangle would have to be 3 feet high or less.
The proposed double-faced sign to replace the L-shaped sign would be more than 3 feet but shorter than the existing sign, according to Souther.
In essence, the hospital wants to replace a nonconforming sign with another nonconforming sign and needed the variance to do so.
Souther said the new sign would be in the sight triangle but would not cause a sight obstruction. Rather, it would be smaller and the same distance from the road, he said.
Sight distance also is not a problem because the intersection has a traffic signal, Souther noted.
Phillips reminded Zoning Board members that they do not govern content on the sign, only whether it meets standards for a variance in terms of height and whether it’s a sight obstruction.
“They could put a smiley face on the sign, but they’d better do it on that (existing sign) because we can’t give them a new sign,” Vice Chairman Randy Reamer said.
Zoning Board members said the hospital’s request doesn’t meet at least three of the five standards in place for them to approve a variance. They couldn’t determine the hardship needed to approve a variance and allow a new sign.
“In my view,” Reamer told Souther, “you ought to keep what you have.”
As a side note, Zoning Board members also expressed concern that the proposed sign’s double-face design would not work as well at the intersection.
“How’s that sign going to be visible?” Reid Acree asked of vehicles approaching the hospital on Confederate Avenue from the City Park side.
In another case, the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a variance for the placement of a waste container in what is technically the front yard of the Rowan County Health Department at 1811 E. Innes St.
Rowan County plans a 27,000-square-foot addition to the Health Department and renovations to the existing building so that the Department of Social Services can move to this location.
The building is oriented so that its front faces the interior parking lot, putting Innes Street and Faith Road on the sides of the structure.
But for zoning purposes, Phillips has to consider Innes Street as the front yard, and a Dumpster can only be located in a side or rear yard.
Architects Bill Burgin and Nathan Coyle, representing the county in the project, explained the need for putting the trash container in what they consider the real side yard on the Innes Street side.
“We’re trying to meet the spirit (of the zoning requirement),” Burgin said. “We just can’t do it with the literal translation.”
Coyle said their office considered it a textbook case of something that should have a variance.
The Zoning Board agreed by a 5-0 vote. The new waste container would be screened by a 6-foot-high solid wood fence with a gate. It will be placed toward the rear of a new parking lot of 100 additional spaces on the Innes Street side.