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."