Planning Commission Signs On To Arena Plan

After recently speaking about the need to better market the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, Kurt Silcott is now looking to add some eye-catching signage to the building.

Silcott, the arena’s CEO, submitted a petition on behalf of the Jamestown Center City Development Corporation to request a variance that would allow for the installation of a 12-foot-by-18-foot illuminated LED sign. The JCCDC was established in 2000 by the Gebbie Foundation as a way to finance, build and operate the arena. At a meeting for the Jamestown Planning Commission on Tuesday, a motion was passed to support the request by a narrow vote of three to two following discussion by the members of the commission.

Since the request for a recommendation was passed, the Jamestown Planning Commission will formally recommend the variance to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The sign, which would be placed on the rotunda portion of the arena, drew criticisms from some members of the Jamestown Planning Commission, while others praised it.

“The arena wants to install automated signage, much like Southwestern Central School has, where it can display changing copy and different colors,” said Larry Scalise, building inspector. “They want to be able to showcase events, display messages and do other things along those lines.”

According to Scalise, the city code currently does not allow businesses to have signage with changeable copy or anything that is automated.

“Basically, the code says that they can’t do what they want to do,” said Scalise. “These panels are illegal without a variance.”

Scalise noted that the arena has already requested a variance in the past when the advertisements for AT&T were hung in the rotunda. There were some concerns about the advertising causing traffic problems, but no serious issues have come from the advertisements since their installation.

There are some area businesses, including CVS in Brooklyn Square, that have been granted variances for electronic signage, but those signs are all smaller, single-color displays.

“When CVS put in their sign, we had an expectation of how frequently they would be allowed to change that message,” said Martha Zenns, chair of the Jamestown Planning Commission.

In a letter to Ellen Ditonto, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, Zenns laid out the primary concerns of the Jamestown Planning Commission in regard to the sign. The size of the sign and the potential frequency of changes in the messages were seen as possible distractions, and the precedent that this variance may set for other businesses in Jamestown was seen as potentially problematic. Despite the potential issues, Zenns cast the final vote to recommend this petition to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“We are pleased to think this sign could potentially be used to publicize community events and be part of downtown events and celebrations,” said Zenns.

According to Scalise, if the Zoning Board of Appeals were to approve the sign, they would likely impose restrictions on its use accompanying the approval. These restrictions could include items such as limiting the signage to text only, having a set time frame in between changes or terms to allow for public notices on the signage. The arena could also possibly be required to keep the sign off when events are ending at the arena to keep the focus of drivers at the pedestrian level.

“At the beginning and the end of hockey games, there are a lot of people near the arena that just don’t pay attention,” said Scalise. “They don’t see the crosswalk signs, and you have to wonder if this might cause accidents.”

One concern that was not addressed during the meeting, but was included in the letter to Ditonto, was the possible issue of the arena using the signage for advertising. According to Zenns, if the arena were to use the sign for advertising purposes, it would fall into the definition of a billboard and require a second variance to be granted.