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Seaholm Power Plant sign rejected by review board

Thursday, November 13, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Despite being owned by the city, the Seaholm Power Plant got no breaks at the Sign Review Board this week, where members unanimously shot down a request for a variance from the city’s scenic roadway sign district regulations.

Board Member Sallie Burchett explained her reasoning for voting against the variance.

“I think that it’s important for us to be consistent and treat everyone fairly,” said Burchett. “If people can’t find this place, then maybe later would be the appropriate time to approve it. But I don’t feel good about denying private signs — which I usually almost always do — but allowing this one.”

Wes Mendell, with Ion Art, spoke in favor of the variance on behalf of the city. She explained that they were requesting the variance to install a sign identifying their tenants on the corner of Cesar Chavez Street and West Avenue. Because Cesar Chavez Street is a scenic byway, only one monument sign is allowed under code, and developers would like two.

Mendell said the length of the Cesar Chavez Street frontage warranted a second sign. Board members disagreed. Board Member Bryan King observed that the plant was “kind of a destination.”

Board Member Michael Von Ohlen said he denied the sign because he denied all non-code signs on scenic roadways.

“We don’t have many scenic roadways anymore in the City of Austin,” said Von Ohlen. “They are dying out one by one. And I know Cesar Chavez is busy. I understand. But nevertheless, it’s a scenic roadway. Some of us have been here for a long time and have been watching them go away one by one.”

So far, Austin has invested more than $24 million in the redevelopment and restoration of Seaholm, though that investment is expected to be recouped through revenue generated by the project. Once that has been accomplished, proceeds will go toward affordable housing.

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