Hadley ZBA frowns on oversize Subaru dealership sign request




Staff Writer

Published: 04-02-2024 3:14 PM

HADLEY — The Zoning Board of Appeals is taking a dim view of a variance requests from a Route 9 Hadley car dealership that would allow the installation of a new business sign exceeding the size limits imposed by town regulations and violating a prohibition on internal illumination of commercial signs.

The plans were unanimously opposed by town planners in an advisory to the ZBA prior to its meeting on March 28. With an appeal coming from representatives of Balise SLS LLC as part of rebuilding and rebranding the Steve Lewis Subarau at 315 Russell St., Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer told ZBA members Thursday that the request should be turned down.

“There is not a single grounds for granting a variance,” Dwyer said. “There is nothing unique to this property, unlike other properties in this district. There is no hardship, financial or otherwise.”

“We don’t need more signage. Subaru doesn’t need more signage,” Dwyer said.

Thomas Reidy, an attorney with Bacon Wilson PC of Amherst, told the ZBA that the plans are for a sign on the building that is 148.29 square feet, more than double the 64 square feet limit allowed under town zoning for an industrial zone property. But Reidy argued that because the dealership project is being built on an aggregation of three lots, 315, 305 and 303 Russell, that if each site were developed, the combined size of the signs would exceed what is requested.

In addition, the oversize sign on the building would be set back 175 feet from Route 9. The sign features the Subaru emblem and the words “Balise” and “service.”

Reidy said a free-standing sign along the road is already illuminated and will remain. Dwyer said that highway sign can be refaced, but if replaced would have to be externally illuminated due to a Town Meeting vote to phase out internally illuminated signs throughout the commercial district.

With the opposition from the ZBA, Reidy asked for a continuance, rather than a possible denial. He was expected to meet with the Planning Board Tuesday. The ZBA hearing will continue on Tuesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. at a location to be determined.

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The ZBA was able to issue the Subaru dealership a unanimous finding that the project will be more compliant with town zoning than the current dealership. It will have the full 40-foot setback required from the rear property, where the current building only has a 15-foot setback, and the side setback will be increased by 5 feet to 20 feet.

During the Planning Board discussion earlier in March on the site plans for the Balise dealership, planners were worried about the signs.

“They have no justification, no hardship, that would justify a variance for twice the allowed signage and internally lit, when we don’t allow internally lit signs,” Dwyer said.

Planner Joseph Zgrodnik said he recalled that Old Navy, a store at Mountain Farms Mall, also had pressure from its corporate headquarters to get an internally lit sign. The sign that Old Navy ended up with is lit from the exterior.

“They came, they complied,” Zgrodnik said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.