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Sign Review Board rejects larger sign for HEB on RM 620

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

Developers hoping to get a sign variance on one of the city’s scenic roadways were shot down at the Sign Review Board in no uncertain terms last week. The owners of the Plaza Volente development on RM 620 were seeking a variance to the Scenic Roadway ordinance for a larger and taller sign for the HEB Store in the center.


“My biggest concern that I’m having with the change and the growth of Austin is we’re eroding away at this, just nibbling away and it’s getting worse,” said Board Member Michael Von Ohlen. “It’s one thing if it’s an emergency hospital, to get somebody in and out or that situation. In this type of circumstance, that HEB is a big HEB, and when you come up on it on Anderson Mill, you can’t miss it.”


“Developers know what they’re getting into when they develop the property,” said Von Ohlen.


Daniel Hornung spoke on behalf of the Plaza Volente development, which is located at 11521 North FM 620. Plaza Volente is located on a scenic roadway, and subject to the scenic roadway ordinance.


“Essentially, the signage that we’ve got is completely invisible,” said Hornung. “It’s true, it’s good to be on a busy intersection, but also it reduces the effect of the building signage on the inside of the development, which as you can see is set back quite a bit”


“This is on the existing edge of the scenic byway, so directly across the street, signs aren’t subject to the rule restricting their commercial signage – so as far as restricting the negative impact of signage on the area, we don’t feel that it would have a significant aesthetic impact,” said Hornung.


Peter Torgrimson of the 2222 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations disagreed.


“There seems to be a feeling that because this is on the boundary of the scenic roadway district that we should roll back the scenic roadway district to allow this extra sign, and to allow maybe some other provisions of the sign,” said Torgrimson.


“The precedence about this is clear. The major retail developments along this roadway have not been granted additional signage beyond that which has been specified in the LDC,” said Torgrimson. “This site, frankly, has no special features which require consideration when compared to the other big box developments in the area.”


Torgrimson explained that the development was the largest in the area, and very visible, even without large monument signs. 


Plaza Volente is located in an area that is a mix of county development, that wasn’t subject to regulation, and city development that was.


“These new developments have the potential to reverse some of the scenic damage done by the county developments. As the area has been redeveloped as city developments, the streetscape is slowly coming up to what we might think of as a scenic roadway,” said Torgrimson.


Board Member Heidi Goebel explained that she found the whole case uncompelling, and had no intention of voting in favor of the variance.


“Your testimony essentially said that one sign is useless, but we want to keep to it and add it. You want to keep the useless sign, and then get a variance for a brand new sign. It didn’t quite add up for me,” said Goebel.


The Sign Review Board voted 7-0 to deny the variance, with Nora Salinas, Susan Morrison and Dan Graham absent and alternate Will Schnier voting.

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