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Ormond Beach Observer Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019 6 days ago

Wawa seeks electronic sign for gas prices

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Signs could be allowed in the city on case-by-case basis.
by: Wayne Grant Real Estate Editor

Owners of the Wawa being constructed at the Granada Pointe development want to be able to have the gasoline prices on its sign lit up, and the decision is up to the City Commission. They will vote on Sept. 18 and Oct. 1.

The signs are called “electronic changeable signs” referring to the fact that the message, in this case gas prices, can be changed electronically. The numerals showing the gas prices would glow, even during the day.

Requests for this type of signage have come up occasionally over the years at City Hall.

In 2010, the City Commission considered allowing changeable electronic signs when a variance was requested by a church. The idea was voted down when the officials did not like the idea of electronic signs with changing messages throughout the city.

The gas station signs would change only when there is a change in prices.

In 2015, the City Commission approved electronic changeable copy signage at Destination Daytona.  The owners said the signs would be valuable in bringing in business from Interstate 95. The approval was limited to the Destination Daytona area.

There are some electronic changeable signs around the city, but they were grandfathered in and are nonconforming. At the 2015 meeting, the city attorney said if a hurricane destroyed the electronic changeable sign at the Performing Arts Center, it could not be rebuilt.

 

THE ARGUMENT FOR APPROVAL

 

Glenn Storch, a local lawyer representing Wawa, is asking the city to make changeable, electronic signs allowable for gas stations by a special exception. Each gas station would have to request the exception, including the Wawa at Granada Pointe. A special exception requires a hearing by the Planning Board and approval by the City Commission.

“What about a grocery store that wants to advertise prices?”

MIKE SCUDIERO, board member, after voting no to the request

Storch told the Planning Board at their Aug. 8 meeting that the fear of electronic signs is that they would be flashing and distracting, but this would not be the case for the gasoline station signage. He also said he understood the history of electronic changeable signage in the city, and he is only asking for very specific applications, gasoline prices.

He said the placard-type signs can be messy and tacky.

“The signs need to be upscale, like Ormond Beach,” he said.

The Planning Board recommended that the City Commission approve the request in a 4 to 1 vote with no discussion. (Lori Tolland and G.G. Galloway were absent.)

After the meeting, board member Mike Scudiero said he voted “no” because all businesses should be treated consistently.

‘What about a grocery store that wants to advertise prices?” he asked.

 

THE STATE STATUTE QUESTION

 

Storch said that electronic, changeable signs should be allowed because of a state statute, which states a city cannot enforce an ordinance that “Imposes any requirement on the design, construction, or location of signage advertising the retail price of gasoline … which prevents the signage from being clearly visible and legible to drivers of approaching motor vehicles from a vantage point on any lane of traffic in either direction.”

After a review, city staff did not believe that an electronic changeable copy sign would qualify for the exemption, according to a document in the Planning Board meeting packet.  City staff acknowledged the statute gives preferential treatment to certain corporate entities, specifically gasoline companies. The city attorney recommended that applications be processed as a special exception so the merits of the public safety issue can be addressed on a case by case basis. 

This rendering shows a sample Wawa sign. Courtesy photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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