The applicants initially asked for several waivers from the DRB, allowing them to move and substantially change an existing freestanding internally-lit sign, and to add a freestanding internally-lit menu board for the drive-through service. During two public hearings on the application, representatives from Sandri and Dunkin’ Donuts offered numerous compromises, including a smaller menu board and an externally-lit Dunkin’ Donuts sign that would be affixed to a relocated, internally-lit gas station sign.
In their decision, however, DRB members appear to have approved signage that would need the fewest waivers, and deviate the least from current zoning regulations.
Currently, internally-lit signs are not allowed in the village zoning district. Internally-lit signs that existed in the district before the rule change, however, are considered “grandfathered” if they remain unchanged. According to the board, the changes requested in the initial application, which included relocation and changes in sign size, design, and structure, were substantial enough that the sign would lose its grandfathered status. The board also found that several of the requested changes for the sign did not meet the criteria for a waiver under the ordinance.
In their decision, board members allowed minimal changes to the internally-lit sign, that include “rewording for an existing use while maintaining uniformity of background.”
According to Wilmington Zoning Administrator Craig Ohlson, the applicants plan to change the current internally-lit price sign, which currently displays prices for three grades of gasoline, to accommodate one price and a Dunkin’ Donuts sign. “On the grandfathered sign, all they’re allowed to do is put one price and the Dunkin’ Donuts sign, which can be internally lit because it will still be grandfathered. It will be on the same pole, with the same Sunoco sign, in the same location.”
The menu board, as originally proposed, would have required waivers for size, internal lighting, and for a second freestanding sign on the premises (only one freestanding sign per property is allowed in the village district). During the course of the hearings, the applicant proposed an alternative sign which, at 23.16 square feet, was less than half the size of the original. At the hearing, applicants argued in favor of a waiver for internal lighting of the menu board, suggesting that it would create less light pollution than the alternative – external downcast lighting.
Although the board approved a waiver for a second sign, they did not issue a waiver for internal lighting. The board imposed conditions on the menu board that include the restriction of the size to 23.16 square feet and requiring external lighting from “downcast shielded gooseneck lighting of the minimum lumens necessary to allow the menu board to be read at night from a distance of six feet by the average person.”
Ohlson noted that, although opinions were split during deliberations, board members eventually reached consensus on the signs. “Some argued that the relocated internally lit sign would look better, and some argued that the menu board would have less light leakage if it were internally lit,” Ohlson said. “In the end the board decided to grant as few waivers as necessary.”