Highland BZA Tables Sign Variance Application

At it’s meeting Tuesday evening, the Highland County Board of Zoning Appeals tabled action on the sign variance application for the proposed Family Dollar store in Monterey.  The variance is a request for larger signs and an illuminated sign.

County Attorney Melissa Dowd explained that legally the variance application was incomplete and inappropriate, because the owner listed does not officially own the property yet, although the sale is in the works.   Also, the sign company, Atlantic Coast Signs submitted the application when it should have been submitted by the owner.  Dowd sent a letter explaining these legal flaws and said she was told the application will be corrected.  A corrected application will contain these changes, but the applicant will not be allowed to amend the sign variance portion.  If this variance application is eventually denied by the Board of Zoning Appeals, the owners will then be bound by the town’s ordinance, which will not allow an illuminated sign and will require a smaller size.   Dowd recommended that the Board table action on the application, until it is corrected.

The Board of Zoning Appeals has sixty days to make a decision on the application and the applicant has sixty days to correct the application.  The public hearing on the application was held Tuesday evening, since it had already been advertised.

Jennifer Lowe, of Atlantic Coast Signs, attended the meeting virtually and explained they are the sign installer working for Allen Industries, who has been contracted by the new owner Will Stronach.   Lowe said they feel the signs won’t disturb the cohesiveness of the town and that’s why the variance was applied for and she also said it would benefit the town as well.

During the public hearing, twelve people spoke and County Zoning Administrator Josh Simmons also read five letters, all were in opposition to the sign variance.    Speakers were concerned with letting a similar business do something differently than another business had been allowed to do.  There was also concern that Family Dollar representatives had no contact with the town yet regarding water and sewer and there were no paper permits yet, but the windows have already been removed from the old motel on the property.  Landowners across the road also expressed concern about headlights shining onto their properties.  They suggested a low privacy fence be installed to cut down on that light and some of the noise.

Supervisor David Blanchard said the county is not in favor of the variance.  He urged the owner to work with the Town Council on signage.  He also suggested that when an important issue like this comes before a county board, the applicant should attend in person.

Monterey Mayor Ron Wimer said there had been no communication with the owner until that afternoon and he said the owner is willing to work with the town.  Wimer said the Town Council is also not in favor of the variance.

Josh Simmons explained there was a lot of comparison between the proposed Family Dollar and the Dollar General store.  He said the Dollar General property was rezoned, so the town was able to control different aspects of it due to that process.  The Family Dollar property is already zoned business.  He said plans have been submitted, but none have been approved yet.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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