Representatives of an auto dealership under construction in Pooler are asking the city for leeway to put up a sign and flagpole that exceed the heights allowed for in the city’s code of ordinances.
But the Pooler Planning & Zoning Commission on Monday recommended that the City Council deny most aspects of the variances sought by Vaden Chevrolet of Pooler, which is being built on an outparcel of the Tanger Outlets, adjacent to Interstate 95.
The dealership’s request has three parts: one for a 17-foot, 6-inch variance above the city’s maximum allowed height of 30 feet for the sign; another for a 20-foot variance above the city-prescribed 40-foot height maximum for a flagpole; and the third, a 184-square-foot variance for the total size of the flag, which exceeds the city’s max allowable size by 216 square feet.
The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend that the council turn down the two height variance requests. The requested variance for the flag’s size was recommended for approval.
In an overview of the variance submitted to the city before Monday’s meeting, representatives of the dealership argued that the additional height would be necessary for customers traveling on Interstate 95 to find the business. If the sign is not constructed at a height of 47 feet and the flag not erected at 60 feet, they won’t be visible to people driving at interstate speeds, the applicant argued, and Vaden Chevrolet will suffer an undue hardship.
“Unlike other individual retail users within the Tanger development, Vaden Chevrolet will be more of a destination retailer,” representatives wrote in the submission. “Our business will depend on our customers being able to identify where we are and how to access our lot while traveling at interstate highway speeds. Our proposed signage will help them do that.”
The document goes on to say that the sign meets the requirements for location, type and sign size as outlined in the city’s sign ordinance, which was last revised by the Pooler City Council in 2015.
But planning commissioners were unconvinced of the need for the excessive heights.
Commissioner Brian Cornwell said the city just settled litigation related to signs, and he argued that the area is already congested with signs. He said Vaden could still get visibility for the business by erecting a sign and flagpole that meet the height standards in the ordinance.
In addition, Cornwell said, approving the variance could create a precedence among the businesses in the city that front I-95.
“We currently have in that stretch of two miles an abundance of billboards,” said Planning Commission Chairman Samuel Bostick, adding, “I do not see where you would actually meet the standards (for a variance).”
The request now will be forwarded to the Pooler City Council with a recommendation for denial.
If, however, the request is approved by the Pooler City Council at its meeting next week, the sign for Vaden Chevrolet of Pooler would be the second in this area of I-95 to stand above the city’s set maximum height. In 2013, the city council granted a 120-foot sign height variance to the Tanger Outlets for its interstate sign.
Plans for Vaden Chevrolet were approved by city officials about a year ago. According to the filing to the city, site work is under way, and an opening date has been set for later this year.
In other business, the planning commission:
• Signed off on site and landscape plans for a Valvoline Instant Oil Change at 141 Tanger Outlets Blvd.
• Recommended approval of site and landscape plans for 10,000-square-feet of retail and office space for Pooler Town Center, which will be located at the corner of Durham Park Boulevard and Pooler Parkway.
• Voted to recommend approval of a request from the city to define “medical centers” in Pooler’s zoning ordinance and add them as a permitted use in C-2, or heavy commercial, districts.
Reached by phone Monday, Mayor Mike Lamb could not comment on whether a new medical center is poised for construction in Pooler, saying only that the addition to the ordinance is an effort to be prepared in case such a facility does come to the city.
“A medical center is something we’ve been trying to do for years,” Lamb said. “We would hate to be the hold up if something did happen.”