New store's sign gets its own subcommittee
It has been three times that the Historic District Commission heard a signage application for new business “Cool to be Kind” — once at one scheduled regular HDC meeting, and then by scheduling three special hearings afterwards (one of which, the first, was cancelled by the applicant).
And yet no decision has been rendered. Instead, at its June 22 special meeting, the HDC formed a subcommittee to study the application further and again asked the applicant to return with a more subdued sign — a request that commissioners originally made at their first meeting, May 21. The board has made it clear it doesn’t like the three-dimensional and colorful lettering used on the sign.
The subcommittee will consist of HDC chair Bill Penn and commissioner Dennis Riordan, and there was possible suggestion of approval this time contingent upon three stipulations:
First, the “Cool to be Kind” lettering as displayed on the proposed sign cannot be trademarked; there remained confusion on whether lettering is or is not trademarked. Several remarks at past meetings by owner Christine Barry suggested that it is. At the June 22 meeting, Dennis Noreiko — representing the store in Barry’s absence — said it is but then rescinded the statement, contending that it’s not trademarked.
The current zoning ordinance says that any registered trademark cannot take up more than 25 percent of a sign. Commissioner Douglas Gilpin asked whether the ordinance only refers to logos (as in, a picture representing the company: think of the McDonald’s arch) instead of text such as the “Cool to be Kind” sign. Commissioners seemed reluctant to entertain this debate.
Second, commissioners asked that the size of the sign be reduced. They brought up the fact that the sign is large enough to impede on the decorative molding of the door of the Figurehead building (the location of the store).
Under a section of the zoning ordinance, signs and supporting framework may cover architectural details with approval, but the HDC could not find a sufficient reason to approve covering the decorative molding.
“If you had, in fact, gone through this ordinance in detail, why isn’t the sign in compliance?” asked commissioner Martha Ball. At the June 4 meeting, Barry had said, “We spent a lot of time making sure we were in complete compliance on this sign.”
Third, the design of the signage would also be changed slightly. The colors must be subdued and the pop-out letters, originally extending one-and-a-half-inches, must instead extend a half-inch. This stipulation comes despite the fact that historic guidelines don’t mention color and thus color is beyond the commission’s purview.
Barry and Noreiko say the sign’s design was inspired by the “Wags and Giggles” sign, which is three-dimensional and colorful as well. Noreiko and Barry both have continually stated in meetings that it is unfair that this sign has been approved, while theirs is under contention. Several members of the HDC argue that it is different because “Wags and Giggles” is located on a different building and in a less visible area on Weldon’s Way.
It had been revealed, at the June 6 meeting, that in April 2001, at the request of the Figurehead’s owner, the commission made the decision that all Figurehead signs must conform to a specific design of a picture-framed sign made of mahogany with dark teal lettering.
However, the Figurehead is under new ownership since 2001. The commission said they would rehear the “Cool to be Kind” application if the new Figurehead owner sent in a request that this ordinance be absolved. The owner did, and the HDC approved this request, allowing the HDC to consider variations from the mahogany lettering.