A tall ordinance: Businesses reflect on the chance of fewer tall signs along Red Arrow

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE — The Lincoln Township Planning Commission has a few businesses thinking ahead after its last few meetings.

In December, the Planning Commission held a public hearing to consider amending regulations for signs within the zoning ordinance along the Red Arrow Highway district.

The commissioners’ intent was to have incoming businesses install monument signs in the community and reduce the number of tall signs that can be seen along Red Arrow and Interstate 94.

Upon hearing this news, Frank Beltran found himself in an interesting position.

As manager of Candlewood Suites on Marquette Woods Road in Stevensville, Beltran has a sign that can be seen from I-94 and stands at about 50-feet high. Candlewood Suites announced plans to renovate its hotel from top to bottom in the spring. Among the items to be updated will be the tall sign.

The manager of Candlewood Suites in Stevensville said they plan on replacing their 50-foot sign with a monument sign, which would be lower to the ground. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

The manager of Candlewood Suites in Stevensville said they plan on replacing their 50-foot sign with a monument sign, which would be lower to the ground. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Beltran said he heard of the potential ordinance and they began to plan accordingly.

“We are looking at bids for monument signs. We know the township wants to go in that direction, so we will probably lean that way as well,” he said. “For us, it’s not just going in the direction of where the township’s master plan is. We are trying a new look that’s trending. If you go to some of the major cities, you can see they are doing this, too.”

Maintenance is another factor Beltran is looking at. For hotels and restaurants that have these towering signs, it can be hard to find companies with cranes and other equipment for repair.

Beltran said most people use their iPhones when finding a business on the go.

“It’s nice to have something visual to draw customers in, but we get most of our reservations from people who booked via the Internet or called ahead of time,” Beltran said. “The only time our signs have an impact are when motorists get stranded on the highway and the state troopers who are called in for assistance recommend us because they see the sign. I’ve personally encountered that maybe five times a year.”

Businesses that have already installed monument signs include the Tyler Honda Dealership, the BP and Mobil gas stations as well as the soon-to-be built Fairfield Inn.

The big picture

The amendment is not official yet, as the Planning Commission sent it back to the township’s planner and attorney to have the language reviewed.

Commissioners have said the amendment would come into play when one of those tall signs falls down, when one is damaged or when the property changes hands and is turned into a different business.

Michael Patel, owner of Comfort Suites and the incoming Fairfield Inn along Red Arrow, said while there are advantages to keeping the tall signs, technology is lessening their effect. Patel said he understands the township’s desire for all its businesses to appear more aesthetically pleasing. The sign for the Comfort Suites, which stands between 40 and 45 feet, has been up since 2004 when the hotel was built.

Patel said he is not worried about his sign because there are other ordinances that need to be addressed. Patel ran into some trouble with a different township ordinance when he was seeking approval with the Fairfield Inn.

“It was a hassle getting the zoning ordinance for the Fairfield Inn. It is a business corridor, so it’s got to grow,” he said. “It’s a small town and this is all the stuff we have. We would like to see new restaurants and businesses, but we need to make it easy on them by making sure the ordinances are written properly, where they won’t have to hire lawyers and attend hearings for four months.”

Not every business is in favor of the potential sign ordinance.

Pedro Rios, manager of Rios Mexican Grill, said his business could see fewer customers because his restaurant is along Marquette Woods Road – just off of the popular highway.

“I don’t think it’s good for business,” he said. “We are out off the main drag from Red Arrow, so that is bad enough. By having a sign that’s going to be smaller or shorter, it’s not going to help any business. I don’t think they should allow this.”

Rios said they are already struggling to stay open because there’s not enough business coming their way. He said a good portion of their customers come from the highway.

“If they want their town to flourish, they should allow business owners to be seen right away without having to look too hard,” Rios said. “Signs are there for a reason.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 18, 2016)

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