By Valerie Baldowski
A new Ingles supermarket is set to open in Stockbridge later this year, but the number, and size, of the signs to be posted in front of it, have increased.
The store is under construction at the intersection of Walt Stephens Road and Speer Road. It is expected to open this fall, said Ron Freeman, chief financial officer for Ingles.
To prepare for its opening, the Stockbridge City Council approved requests for variances for signs in front of the business. The approval came during the council's regular meeting on July 12.
The variances sought by Ingles were presented by Stacey Jordan, a planner with the Henry County Planning and Zoning Department. After considerable discussion, the council split the request into two motions.
A motion to approve the variance, as requested, passed 4-1, City Councilmember Kathy Gilbert said Friday. A second motion -- to allow the connection of a third sign, on two signposts, to the fuel station -- also passed 4-1, said Gilbert.
The requests the applicant made included:
* Increasing the number of wall signs from three to five, totaling 360 square feet,
* Increasing the number of ground signs from two to three,
* I increasing the width of the two primary ground signs from 15 feet, to 16 feet,
* Increasing the "signable area" of the two primary ground signs from 100 square feet, to 193 square feet, and the third sign to 144 square feet.
The "signable area" is the area on the sign front where the letters and numbers are placed, explained Jordan.
"I didn't particularly have a problem with the two entrance signs," said Gilbert, who cast the lone vote against the second motion. However, she said the third ground sign will be too intrusive. "I believe the character of the neighborhood is being compromised by the type of sign that was approved," she said.
The city could have postponed making a decision on the third ground sign, Gilbert added. "We're in the process of developing a new sign ordinance, and a unified land development code, as part of the county's code, for the city, that will address some of these issues," she said.
Although any delay would have been inconvenient for Ingles, Gilbert said a postponement would have given the city an opportunity to develop a "master signage plan" for the site.
Mayor Lee Stuart concurred. "I don't see anything wrong with having a master plan," he said Friday. Ingles, he said, presented the city council with the usual sign requests it normally asks for, wherever it builds.
"I welcome them, I think they'll do great there," Stuart added. "I thought everything they presented there was their standard package."
Councilmember Mark Alarcon, one of those who voted in favor of the variance, defended his vote on Friday. "I wouldn't have voted affirmative, if I didn't believe it was a good idea, or [if] the city wasn't ready," said Alarcon.
The size of the lot where the store, and the fuel station, will be is five acres, he said. "I think that portion of it had to be considered. That's why I agreed to the size of the signs."
Two residents, Sam Valme and Frederick Gardiner, opposed the variances during the council meeting. Valme, a resident of the Menderley Estates subdivision on Walt Stephens Road, said his neighborhood is less than a mile from the future Ingles. The city has no guidelines in place to regulate signs in front of businesses, he said.
"They should have a master plan or a standard," said Valme. "My main concern was to ensure that when a business comes into the city, they follow the master plan."
Gardiner told council members he was worried about multiple, large signs, being placed too close together. "My chief concern is, do we need two primary ground signs at 20-plus feet?" he asked.
"As you're driving down, and you come to the intersection of Walt Stephens, and Speer Road, you're going to see a ground sign that says 'Ingles' that's going to be 25 feet tall, and before you get to the end of the intersection, you're looking at another sign that's 23 feet tall," he said. "All this sign clutter in ... such a short space ... That's a lot of signs to put right there in front of somebody's face."