Signage gets first approval

When The Chautauqua Center opened its doors at the Graf Realty building in the 300 block of Central Avenue in February 2013, it had one sign placed on the north side of the building.

On Tuesday, the city of Dunkirk Zoning Board of Appeals met to consider a variance allowing the Center to put up a sign on the south side of the building directing clients to the northside entrance. The ZBA was involved because the two signs would exceed the allowable signage in the city’s historic overlay district.

“The original sign which was put up on the north side only, due to its location, does an inadequate job of advertising the company to new clients,” the appeal letter from Chautauqua Center Executive Assistant Michelle Leone-Mitchell and Cody Britton, principal signwriter for Southpaw Signs & Stripes stated.

Graf Realty Corp. Facilities Manager Jay Warren wrote to state the company approves the installation of the sign, but with provisions that state the Center is responsible to get the proper approval for the sign, will remove the sign if they leave the building, and the Center will be totally responsible for proper care and maintenance of the sign.

Britton was present to support the variance.

“They’re a nice addition to the medical corridor that’s starting to happen down here along Central Avenue,” Britton said.

Britton noted that if the building was not in the city’s historical district the sign could have been much larger.

“We’re envisioning it to be on the same level as the third floor and then justified to the right or to the east,” Britton explained. ” … I want to maintain a nice negative space but yet have it up there in that upper right hand corner of the building.”

The 10 foot wide by nearly six foot high sign will be made of alumalite, which has a corrugated plastic core with an aluminum face and is treated with a trim cap around the perimeter to keep water out. Britton said the sign would weigh no more than 40 pounds and be bolted to the building. The sign will not have any lighting. The sign will be similar to the current one on the north side of the building.

Housing, Building and Zoning Officer Alan Zurawski explained the signage is limited to 50 square feet in the historic overlay district and the north side sign counts. He also stated the sign must be able to withstand 90 mile per hour winds.

Britton noted the landscape has changed on Central Avenue.

“Their intentions, I hope I don’t show too many cards for the Chautauqua Center, but their intentions are to continue to consume more of that building as time goes on,” he explained. “These are discussions that are being had amongst the organization with Graf Realty. I think they’re also looking for other locations to get bigger and serve the north county.”

After deliberating for some 10 minutes the board’s unanimous decision was announced by ZBA stenographer Carol Ahlstrom, who went on to read the ZBA’s stipulations and findings of fact.

Stipulations included: the appellant must comply with all testimony and information presented; the Chautauqua Center will be responsible for removing the sign if they move or close the facility and Chautauqua Center assumes all responsibility for proper maintenance and care of the sign.

Findings of fact included: the sign will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood; the size and location of the building prohibits the signage to be attached to the front of the building, or space for a detached sign; variance was not a substantial variation due to the size of the building; due to location of building in business district there will be no adverse effect on the environment; the deficiency is not self created due to the fact the clientele does not have access to the building through the Central Avenue entrance and has to enter the building through the north side.

The ZBA then adjourned but that’s not the end of the process for signage approval. The Planning Board is scheduled to review the signage proposed for the historical district during its meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

Send comments to