September 15, 2022 |

A sign variance already decided was back before the planning board this week. As reported by Bigfoot 99, the Saratoga Town Council voted to return the Saratoga Hot Spring Resort’s request for sign variance request back to the planning and zoning commission, which had rejected it. The resort needs the variance for a sign over its outdoor rental shop.

At the previous planning and zoning commission meeting, the sign variance was voted down, 2-3, but still ended up before the town council.

At the following town council meeting on August 16th, Councilman Jon Nelson said that nothing like that had ever happened before.

Councilman Nelson and Councilwoman D’Ron Campbell voted to have the planning and zoning commission revisit the issue. The board met again this past Tuesday, September 13th. When the sign variance came up, Mayor Creed James, who is the council’s representative to the board, said that the council has the final say no matter what the planning commission decides.

Pictured above: Photo courtesy Saratoga Hot Springs Resort.

Alan Harding, the Saratoga Hot Spring Resort’s lawyer, was given another chance to convince the commission that not having the variance would harm the resort. He argued that people wouldn’t be able to see the Base Camp shop, on Pic Pike Road across from the resort, without a larger sign than the town’s ordinances allow. Harding is asking for a variance to allow the resort to have their 200-square-foot sign on the roof of the building. The town only allows signs up to 120 square feet, under ordinance 18.63.040 C.

The resort installed the sign, with lighting, earlier in the year without the council’s approval. After complaints from the public, the Resort removed the lights and sign. The lights are not part of the variance.

The rules regarding variances require the applicant to request the smallest possible modification possible to meet their need. Commission member McCall Burau said the resort’s sign went above and beyond the minimum change need to achieve the desired effect. Burau said the resort could make the sign smaller and still have the same marketing impact they wanted.

Planning commission members Theresa Manley and Michael Lamprecht were absent when the original vote was taken. The town council wanted to get their opinions. Lamprecht did not attend this meeting. Manley voted “yes” after being told by Harding that the sign would not have lighting.

Manley’s vote brought the commission to a tie. Three for and three opposed.
Members of the public who supported the variance attended the meeting. Commission member, Judy Doms pointed out that some of the people were resort employees. Doms said that she did not agree with having another vote.

Dom’s opinion mirrored Councilwoman Campbell’s remarks during the August 16th council meeting. Campbell asked what authority the planning commission had if the council could ignore them.

The sign variance will again be brought before the town council during their next meeting, on September 20th.

The commission members acknowledge that the current sign ordinance unfairly impacts larger businesses. As it is written, total signage for an entire property must not exceed 120 square feet.

The North Valley Medical Center required a sign variance. State law says that a hospital must have total signage that exceeds the town’s permitted total. Commission member Burau is working to change the ordinance. This would increase the amount of signage a property may have, but would limit the total size of any one sign to 120 square feet. The resort would still need a variance for their sign.


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