Pawn shop use variance granted

A trailer will be allowed to remain, but only as long as Jim Langendorfer brings his pawn shop property at 8066 Route 60 in Cassadaga into compliance with town of Pomfret signage laws.

Langendorfer has owned the building for less than 10 years, and told the town of Pomfret Zoning Board of Appeals Monday night the trailer has been on the property for 12 years.

“I really want to keep the trailer,” Langendorfer said, and explained it is used for “off-season” storage for items such as a lawn mower and other items he can’t keep inside the storefront. “I can’t imagine how it could offend anyone,” he said.

The trailer is about 45 feet long and almost entirely covered by signage, including lettering and neon tubing. The trailer is to the side of the main building housing the pawn shop, which also has a sign above the door, estimated by ZBA members to be 8 by 4 feet, in addition to two neon signs in the window and flagged banners throughout the parking lot.

ZBA Chair Sam Alessi said the code is written to allow up to two signs, each no more than 100 square feet. Any signage in windows cannot exceed 5 percent of the window or a total of 5 square feet. Referring to the large sign covering the side of the trailer, Alessi said, “This is just so far out of whack. … It’s almost a billboard.”

Langendorfer asked if some kind of compromise could be made with the signs. Board member Ray Lewandowski said if an exception were made for one business with signage, others would follow.

“Before you know it, they’ll all want bigger signs,” he said.

Alessi concurred. “People worked really hard to come up with the wording of that law,” when the code was rewritten in 1995 to update the standard, he explained.

Langendorfer said the neon signs were custom made and asked if he could keep them but not light them. Some discussion followed and some board members said they didn’t mind the neon signs, but said they aren’t in compliance.

“We could do a special use permit just for the neon,” Alessi suggested.

Langendorfer agreed to keep the neon lights turned off, and was asked if he could remove the signage on the trailer. He said part of the sign is made of vinyl letters pasted over red paint.

“I don’t know if that will come off in 20-degree weather or not,” he said, and added he may need warmer weather to peel the vinyl or paint over the letters.

Banners with hanging flags above the parking lot are also not in compliance according to Alessi, but said others have them and it hasn’t been enforced. “Everybody has them,” Langendorfer said, and named several businesses.

Another compliance issue is embedded posts toward the road side of the property. “I’m surprised you haven’t had the (Department of Transportation) come and say something about those,” Lewandowski said. At a prior meeting, Lewandowski said the large embedded posts likely violate roadway easements.

“I’m going to take them out. They’re an eyesore now, and I’ve taken the signs down, but I’ll need warmer weather to get those out of the ground,” Langendorfer said.

A 1960 Cadillac which is unused is also parked on the lot, but Alessi said that is not out of compliance. Langendorfer said it belongs to his brother and may soon be sold. “I was going to paint it pink and put it on top of the roof to make all your heads really explode,” Langendorfer chided. “I’m hoping it’s going to be gone soon,” he said.

Aside from the sign, board members had no issues with the general appearance of the trailer. “With the skirt (Langendorfer) put around it, it looks pretty good now,” Lewandowski said.

Board member Nancy Kubera said she would be comfortable allowing a special use permit for the trailer provided conditions are met. She said she wanted compliance with signage laws as a condition of allowing the trailer.

Other board members agreed, and passed a special use permit unanimously. An additional stipulation was added to ensure maintenance and upkeep of the trailer over time. The board also suggested if Langendorfer wished to make any other changes in the future, he first consult with the code enforcement officers.

“In ten years, I’ve had all kinds of different businesses in there. Not once have I seen a code officer,” Langendorfer told the board.

Dave Fridmann speculated the signage may have brought the trailer to the attention of the zoning board.

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