Crary says marquee should’ve been OK’d

randersen@timesobserver.com

The Crary Art Gallery board of directors is not finished with the issue of their sign.

The sign committee believes Warren City Council acted incorrectly in rejecting the gallery’s marquee application earlier this month.

The ordinance defines a marquee sign as “any sign attached to a marquee for the purpose of identifying a movie theater or similar place of entertainment.”

Ray Pring, committee member, said the committee acted as promptly possible after the variance was turned down by immediately scheduling a meeting with Nancy Freenock, city manager, and David Hildebrand, city planning director. “How can we fix this?” he asked at the meeting.

He said they city officials suggested they explore the possibilities of a marquee or mural. Likewise, he added that when the zoning board turned down the variance, they said they did so with reluctance, and in a footnote also suggested a mural or marquee.

Pring said he was surprised at the hostility expressed during the August meeting with council.

Committee member Ines Nelson added that the cost of producing a mural, which would cover an entire wall was prohibitive, and would not fit with the character of the neighborhood.

Committee member Pat Evans said the response by council members made it clear that they were not fully familiar with the mural ordinance, as it does not specify zoning districts, or the size of the sign.

She also said that the application was completely distinct and separate from the previous variance application.

Pring said, “I made it clear to council that the sign was down, and this was a new request.” He said that entertainment and marquee “are broadly defined, but council chose to give it a very narrow definition.”

Evans agreed. “The ordinance clearly says we could have the sign. As a former zoning officer with the county, familiar with zoning ordinances, I’ve never seen any similar (ordinances) that are as wide-open.”

Nelson said, “We had a substantial increase in visitors when the sign was up. There is still a public perception that, ‘Yes, there are a lot of great shows,’ but they didn’t know they are open to the public.” She said the original concept for a sign was to have letters “floating” on the wall, but the sign designers said that would destroy the wall.

Another committee member, Brad Conquer, said, “The sign works, aesthetically and functionally.”

Pring noted that the only negative comment the city received was from a woman in Pleasant Township who had a problem with the style of the building, because it isn’t Victorian like the others.

During the August 4 council meeting, two council members voted for the marquee.

“The courts have defined ‘place of entertainment’ very broadly,” Councilman Dr. Howard Ferguson said. “Calling it a place of entertainment does not bother me.”

Councilman Sam Harvey agreed. “I think we should just approve the sign application and then move forward from there.”