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Darrell Cole
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Business owner upset with town over signage decision

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AMHERST - An Amherst businessman feels he was singled out by the town when it decided to restrict advertising signage on the front of his business.

Warren Chapman, who purchased the former Bridge Workshop Adult Residential Centre on Croft Street about a year ago, wants to make the front of the building available for small business to advertise, but the town is refusing to amend the land-use bylaw to allow it.

"I don't have all the particulars yet, but I have a strong feeling we're going to appeal," Chapman said, adding he doesn't feel the town is enforcing the bylaw evenly and believes there are a number of signs in town that aren't in compliance.

"The town has told me I wasn't being singled out, but anytime one person is targeted it's being singled out," Chapman said. "They just flatly refused me without any compromise or alternate solution to allow this to see if it would work."

When Chapman first purchased the building he offered its front for use as part of the mural project, but was told his property falls outside the area where murals were being completed.

After that he opted to make the front of the building available to small business for use as advertising space.

"Right now it's a barren white wall covering over where it was burned," Chapman said. "We've got one derelict-looking service station on one side, and another derelict-looking service station on the other side. How could what I was planning look any worse?"

Chapman's plans drew the attention of the town's planning department and he was told in August he needed a development permit to place signage on the front of his business. His application for a permit was turned down a month later and he subsequently appealed to town council. That appeal was denied last month.

"I just don't see their reasoning," said Chapman. "It's very affordable for small business, it's well organized and it's not unattractive. I don't agree with their claims that it wouldn't look very good or that if they allowed me to do it, they'd have to allow everyone to do it."

The present signage provision of the land-use bylaw says frontal wall signs must not cover more than 0.6 square metres for every linear metre on the wall on which the sign is affixed. The wall on Chapman's buiding is about 8.5 metres wide, allowing for five square metres of sign coverage.

Terry Farrell, who chairs the town's planning advisory committee, said a lot of thought was put into Chapman's application, but it just wasn't in a position to essentially throw out the signage provision of the bylaw.

"The nature of Mr. Chapman's application was essentially to abolish the sign bylaw. What he's looking for, to cover the entire front of his building with signs, would have to be applied uniformly to everyone. Personally, I don't like what that means," said Farrell. "I don't think that would be attractive at all."

Farrell said the advisory committee supported the recommendation of the town's planning staff and he doesn't feel it was trying to unco-operative with Chapman.

Farrell said he could not support giving Chapman permission to change the bylaw while telling others they could not do the same.

"We can't go around making special rules for certain people to do certain things while telling everyone else they can do it," Farrell said. "To me, the rules of fairness say we do it for everyone and I feel this would be an aesthetic issue. It wouldn't approve the appearance of our buildings if the fronts could be covered in signs."

Organizations: Bridge Workshop Adult Residential Centre

Geographic location: AMHERST, Croft Street

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Recent comments

  • E
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    The way I see it is that New York is a little more successful than Amherst and Times Square seems to be working for them so there's no reason Mr.Chapman shouldn't be allowed to do what he pleases with his property. At least he's doing something with it instead of letting it deteriorate into disrepair like other building owners in the downtown core.

  • Uncle Bobby
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Let the man put signs on the building. As long as they are neat and kept in good shape, there is nothing wrong. If I were Mr.Chapman, I would put advertising signs on all the towns road patches and charge a goodly sum to the businesses. He could make a lot of money and look forward to many new patches each year. There are many unpatched holes left over from 2009. Wha happen ? The Industrial Park Streets are a mess. I guess that none of the town officials ever travel there. In Halifax, welcome to Stink Town. We are and have been known as Patch Town. It's eventually going to cost many dollars to repave many streets. The town should have a planning commission to look ahead for a period of many years and repave a few streets every year.

  • Kim
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Nothing personal ... Town is right, don't appeal !!!!!

  • Great Dad
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I have heard a surprising number of town residence use much stronger references to Amherst than 'PATCHES'. Town council should be thanking Mr. Chapman for not asking the townspeople for tax dollars to help in the so called 'beautification' process of Amherst. Are they so stifled by boredom they cannot use a little bit of imagination to offer him some ideas or alternatives? Could the people who add comments here not do the same in place of criticism? Mr. Chapman is using his life experiences to try to generate good ol' fashion revenue here. LET'S USE SOME OF THAT TRIED AND TRUE 'DUE PROCESS' AND PUT THIS TO A VOTE BY AMHERST RESIDENCE.
    Thank you.

  • Mad Mac
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    The signs look far more tasteful than some of the crap signs in Amherst. Leave him alone.It's his building. Long as it's neat.

  • Chud
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Warren has a great idea but it is not new, just look around town, Warren is right to pursue this and when he wins the town pays for court costs and revinue lost.

  • Dee
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Nothing personal and I too am a small business owner:
    As for all the signs less is better The colours clash, the visual is a bit busy and really detract from your storefront.
    You have a great location and congrats on your new Career College. A trendy mural of your business may serve you and the community well. Also from a cultural and visual / Artsy point of view the signs take away from what you want to do. All the best!

  • Steve
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I wouldn't want to see any more signs than he's got in the picture but even they don't mesh well and they look a bit cluttered.

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    There are always two sides to every story, and in this case both sides have strong cases. One could argue that a business owner should be able to use his property to it's fullest potential to earn revenue and help other businesses. There is no question that Mr. Chapman has a prime location for this idea. On the other, while we may not always agree with them, bylaws are created to serve a purpose and this one is intended to enhance the esthetics of the town. This project would not result in a very attractive facade for the building.

    There are a few issues that have yet to be discussed (unless I've missed them). First, safety! Advertisments are designed to be looked at, and anything that detracts a driver attention creates potential for accidents. This is a high traffic area, and driver safety needs to be considered.

    Second, Mr. Chapman talks about being singled out. In fact that is what the town is avoiding. The bylaw already exists and applies to everyone equally, to allow him to move forward, without opening the floodgates, as he suggests, would in fact end singling him out.

    Believe me, I know a thing or two about challenging bylaws. The good of the many will always outweigh the good of the few. I certainly would not expect the town to change a bylaw that has served the community well for years to be changed for one person.

    IMHO, Mr. Chapman should be focused on getting his career college up and running to its full potential before pursuing anything like this. Take Dees suggestion from the above post and use the space that you have to draw attention to your business instead of everyone elses. I for one was not aware of your new business until this commotion about the signs started.