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Thursday, October 11, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns
Board of Adjustment denies variance for storage center sign
These days, a roadway sign is no longer the sole indicator of a business’ location, but merely confirmation that Google Maps did indeed lead to the desired location.
“In the day of Google Maps … once you’ve been there, you know where it is,” said Board Member Melissa Hawthorne at the Oct. 8 meeting of the Board of Adjustment.
In the case of the ExtraSpace Storage center at 9800 and 9910 Slaughter Creek Drive, the Board of Adjustment determined that because signage is not the only option for providing directions and the company’s sign is outside the limits of code in a scenic roadway sign district, it could not remain.
The sign in question indicates the entrance to the storage facility that, despite its address, does not have direct access off Slaughter Lane. Due to its unique location, according to the agent representing the storage center, Charley Schalliol, the sign is a necessary wayfinding tool because without it motorists would miss the entrance, forcing them to reverse course in order to access the property. The storage facility, Schalliol explained, “is unique in that it sits below West Slaughter Lane,” where the roadway deck is 32 feet high. In order to compensate for the dip in terrain, the sign is 60 feet high: “just above the vegetation” so that it is visible over the road. Code permits signs to be 12 feet high.
However, for the board members at the meeting the issue was not merely the height of the sign, but rather the existence of the sign in the first place. Board Member Brooke Bailey pointed out that it shouldn’t technically be there because it was erected without a permit.
Schalliol noted that even though the sign was installed without the proper permitting, “the vast majority of the residents are screened from the sign by vegetation,” he said. He also explained that prior to the hearing, he reached out to both neighborhood groups and “one was confused why I was calling them.” According to him, the second neighborhood within sightline of the sign said it had no objections to it.
Still, the board members did not sympathize. “It’s the only thing you see above the tree line, and it bothers me a lot,” said Chair William Burkhardt. Hawthorne agreed and noted that the existence of the sign could not even be justified by the hardship that other retail competition would present. “It’s not like there’s a storage place on every corner,” she said.
However, Hawthorne did note that if the case came back before the board, “I might be a little more sympathetic to height that would be visible just above (the highway)” instead of towering above it as it does now. The board made a motion to deny the requested variance to allow the sign to remain standing; Board Member Christopher Covo was the only member to vote against it.
Schalliol noted their desire to return and retry the case. Board members explained to him that in order for a reconsideration to take place, the justification in favor of the variance needs to be materially different from the justification presented this week.
In sympathy for the applicant, Hawthorne apologized as the sovereign body denied the request. “Sorry, scenic cases are hard,” she said.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
City of Austin Board of Adjustment: The city's Board of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial body that decides on variances, special exceptions and can issue interpretations of code.