Marion P&Z approves Angelo’s Grove variance

Marion P&Z approves Angelo’s Grove variance

Move paves the way for tower signs, message board

news@theeveningtimes.com

Marion Planning and Zoning Commission has granted the developers of Angelo’s Grove a variance to erect three 120 foot tower signs with an electronic message board, and permission to sell ads on the billboard to businesses who are not in the development.

Acting as the Board of Adjustments, the group voted 5-2 to allow the changes, which developers say will help raise the profile of the area to a new level.

“I think we are on the threshold of doing some pretty exciting things there,” said developer Kenny Farrell. “But we have got to have the infrastructure to do that. And part of that infrastructure is these signs.”

The development was granted a variance by the city back in 2006 to increase the allowable sign height from 65 feet to 85 feet for three signs.

Angelo’s Grove already has one 85 foot tower sign which is visible from Interstate 55, but wind badly damaged the sign and it fell into disrepair.

Farrell said they had engineers come up with a new design which will be more wind resistant, but also more dramatic in its appearance.

“The winds are punishing through there and just peeled the metal off,” Farrell said. “We thought it could be repaired and we went a year and a half exploring what could be done but found out it couldn’t be repaired. So we took a while to study what we could do next. We’re pretty jazzed about this. We expect it to be a dramatic sign. This new one is going to be a good recruiting device and one that is great exposure for the city.”

The new signs will be about 120 feet high and will have electronic message boards. Each tenant in the development will have its own sign on the tower with colors that pay homage to the area’s Italian and agricultural past.

“We wanted something that looks futuristic, but that doesn’t lose touch with the agricultural roots of this community,” Farrell said.

The design also calls for the sign to be topped off with the City of Marion’s logo at the top of the tower with old fashioned search lights lighting it up at night. Marion will get its logo on the sign for free for six years, and will also get a free ad on the billboard for a month twice a year to promote events.

But with a one million price tag per sign, Farrell

The Air Up There

Workers raised the boom to work on the communication towers at AFCO Road and Highway 77 in West Memphis last Thursday. Passersby craned their necks to see the sight.

Photo by John Rech said it is imperative they be allowed to sell ads on the electronic billboard.

Current city ordinances do not allow for off premise advertising.

Farrell said national retailers are shifting more and more to digital message boards, and the development will need this type of signage in order to grow business at Angelo’s Grove. “Amazon has continued to chip away at traditional retail stores and that has hurt expansion into smaller cities,” Farrell said. “And while we are looking at a whole new marketplace with hotels and conferences that currently isn’t being served, we are still pursuing retail. So for those types of things we really need to have signage. And signs continue to get taller and taller. I truly believe that these things will help when we try and recruit.”

Jim King of King Motor Company spoke against the sign.

King said allowing business who are not in Marion to advertise will hurt existing businesses in Marion.

“I think this is very detrimental to what we have here for businesses,” King said. “It’s already hard enough to keep people here from going to Memphis. As a business owner and taxpayer

I am totally against

this.”

P& Z Chairman Rob Rash, who voted against granting the variance, expressed similar concerns.

“I understand the need for revenue and I know that is not an inexpensive sign,” Rash said. “I am just concerned about how it will impact local businesses positive or negative. So I am a little concerned about that.”

Farrell said it is possible that some of the advertisers could be direct competitors of existing businesses, but added that without allowing off-premise ads it will be hard to grow business at the development.

“That’s a fair question,” Farrell said. “To say there will be no impact is not my assessment. But to do that without any revenue is not realistic. And this is not inexpensive advertising. To get any national companies to look at your town you really need to have signage. It’s pretty tough to tell a lender that you are going to exclude these kinds of restaurants and these kinds of hotels. You don’t exclude anybody. You go after everybody you can.

And if we disallow Bass Pro or Nike, we’re not going to be able to get them to see that this is a good place to be.”

Yogesh Shaw, who owns Hampton Inn at Angelo’s Grove and is about to begin construction on a Mariott Fairfield Inn and Suites, submitted a letter in support of the signs.

“I fully support the granting of those variances,” Shaw wrote. “I think it will provide powerful images for the development that far outweigh any disadvantages.”

Farrell said the owners of the Best Western hotel which is soon to start construction, also do not object to allowing off-premise ads on the sign.

“I got the same thing verbally from the developers of Best Western,” Farrell said.

Farrell said he believes Marion is the “sweet spot” between Memphis and Jonesboro for hotels and convention business and that the new signs will help convince more businesses to come to Marion.

“We are closer to a Grizzlies game or to see the Peabody ducks or Bass Pro than parts of Memphis,” Farrell said. “But there is certain infrastructure that you have to have, and a sign and national advertisers is one of them. We want to build these three towers and we want to make it good for the city.”

By Mark Randall

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