Our opinion: The law and good taste

The Crary Gallery’s sign is a conundrum.

It violates the city’s zoning ordinance, but it does it beautifully and tastefully.

It is a conundrum in which Warren’s Zoning Hearing Board found itself mired on Tuesday when it was asked to approve a variance for the sign. To do so, the sign and the property on which it is located would have to meet five criteria.

And, try as they might, the gentlemen on the hearing board could not get the sign to meet the criteria.

To a man, the board members expressed their remorse, each recognizing the sign’s unique fit for the Gallery it labels, but bowing to the ordinance they are charged with following.

Hence, the variance was denied.

We respect their ruling and commend them for their adherence to the rule of law.

But, darn it, we really like that sign, and we suspect many others do as well. Even those who don’t pay it much attention will have to admit if it escapes their notice it must be unobtrusive.

The only way now for the sign to remain, is for the city Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council to amend the ordinance in such a fashion that the sign fits not only the building but the letter of the law.

That’s not as simple as it sounds.

The conundrum remains, because the question becomes: How do you rework or rewrite the ordinance in such a way that a sign of that size is appropriate in a residential zone, while ensuring that other signs of that size (it is about 50 square feet) are just as tasteful and in keeping with the residential nature of the zone.

In other words, how do you legislate good taste? Simply increasing the size allowance opens the door to signs that could, in most people’s opinion, be out of place and inappropriate in a residential zone.

Here’s where we hope City Council can come up with a legislative solution that protects not only the Crary’s sign, but the architectural integrity and residential nature of the zone. It’s a tall order, and one that will require careful consideration, but it will be worth it.