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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, January 12, 2012
At Stuyvesant Plaza
GUILDERLAND A new sign proposal for Stuyvesant Plaza has the McKownville Improvement Association up in arms.
At a zoning board meeting on Jan. 3, at least half a dozen McKownville residents showed up to protest the digital sign the plaza wants to use at its Western Avenue entrance.
“It’s really not very attractive,” said Donald Reeb, president of the McKownville Improvement Association.
But aesthetics are not his main concern; safety is.
The sign would replace the one that currently exists in the space, near the strip of Western Avenue that runs from the Northway to Fuller Road, where the plaza is on one side, and a veterinarian’s clinic, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and a TCBY are on the other.
“That turning lane can get kind of scary, and I think the sign would be distracting and make the intersection more dangerous than it already is,” said Reeb.
The town’s chief zoning inspector, Donald Cropsey, has already declared the sign prohibited by town ordinance, and now it is up to the zoning board to decide if it wants to uphold Cropsey’s decision.
“The problem is that the sign is on town property, not plaza property, and there are a couple of prohibitions that apply,” said Cropsey.
The town’s zoning code does not permit the use of “flashing/glittering/animated or eye-catching devices shall not be permitted.”
Cropsey said the proposed plaza sign would be a colored, LED (light-emitting diode) sign that would be able to change information and images every 13 seconds. He also said the sign could be considered a billboard, due to its size and the fact that it is advertising.
“It’s not a billboard, it’s an electronic message center,” said James Schultz, the attorney representing Stuyvesant Plaza. It would be similar to the current sign on the top and the bottom, with the message center in the middle, displaying digital descriptions of tenants and services in the plaza, he said; the sign would contain both words and images.
“The current sign needs repair, and it is at the point where we need to replace the whole thing anyway, so we wanted to update and modernize things,” said Janet Kaplan, vice president of real estate for Stuyvesant Plaza.
Kaplan said the plaza disagrees with the idea that the sign would be a distraction for drivers on Western Avenue, and Schultz said he obtained a report from a traffic engineer, which says the sign would not affect sight distance when exiting the plaza.
“We’re appealing Cropsey’s decision and asking the zoning board to determine if we meet the law or if we don’t,” said Schultz. Cropsey’s opinion was based on his own interpretation of the code, Schultz said, and he is hoping the zoning board of might have a different interpretation.
Peter Barber, chairman of the zoning board, said he is not sure which way the board is leaning at this point, even after the public hearing on Jan. 3.
“If we decide that Mr. Cropsey’s decision is correct, then the applicant would need to go before the town board and request a variance; if we decide he is incorrect, we’d treat it like any other sign applicant and decide if it needs an area variance,” Barber said.
The issue will come before the zoning board again on Feb. 1.
“The argument is going back and forth between Cropsey and the plaza, but, in our view, the sign is illegal,” said Reeb, who plans to be at the February meeting to further protest the proposal.
By Anne Hayden