BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Board of Adjustment granted two appeals on Thursday afternoon that settled a three-year quest related to a church sign and paved the way for a planned Dunkin’ Donuts project to proceed at the previous Fifth Third Bank location on Main Street.
New Life Missionary Baptist Church sign request prevails
After four years, pandemic delays, and a UDO electronic sign ordinance change last July, the New Life Missionary Baptist Church finally got its Board of Adjustment appeal granted to replace its outdated marquee signs with electronic message boards.
Though the type of sign was now legal after the UDO revision, the proposed electronic signs, placed on both sides of the church’s V-shaped brick marquee, were just under 43 square feet, still exceeding the town’s 32 square foot maximum limits.
The marquee on which the current signs reside was built by the Town of Troutman in 2001 to conceal its sewer pump station in front of the church.
At a previous meeting on the issue, church members noted the disruptive smell and pump alarms that they endure during services and activities.
The church began raising money in 2017 to replace its signage with digital message signs to better promote church services and events. The church consulted with town staff at the time about its sign replacement plan and was given positive feedback.
In October of 2019, after completing the fundraising and sign selection process, the church’s application for a sign permit was rejected because of changes to the town sign ordinance in the UDO revision passed the previous January.
The town’s 2019 UDO adoption added an ordinance prohibiting “animated signs with lights or illumination which flash, move, rotate, scintillate, blink, flicker, vary in intensity or color or use intermittent electrical pulsations, except for time and temperature units.”
At a March 2020 council meeting that addressed the issue, Mayor Teross Young and other council members asked then-Town Planner George Berger to find a resolution to the New Life Missionary Baptist Church’s request to allow digital signs on the pump station wall structure after Berger and the Board of Adjustment had previously denied the request.
Over a year later, after a unanimous Board of Adjustment vote, the church finally has permission to proceed with its sign replacement project.
Dunkin’ Donuts Project
A proposed Dunkin’ Donuts location now has authorization to use a drive-thru window in existence since the 1990s at the old Fifth Third Bank location at 205 North Main Street.
Mooresville resident Donna Machi asked the board to reverse Interim Town Planner Jonathan Wells decision to deny its use, citing a 180-day lapse in use that negated its grandfathered status under the current UDO. The bank closed its indoor business in January of 2020.
However, new evidence came to light since Wells’ ruling that the bank was furnished until its August 31 lease expired and that the location’s ATM also remained in use until that time.
That new calculation meant the business was vacated only 163 days before Machi’s March 12 request to use the drive-thru window, a feature now forbidden in Central Business zoning.
Machi, whose family owns six Dunkin’ franchises, told the board that the drive-thru window was essential to the success of her business model.
Citing the new information, the board unanimously granted Machi’s request.
Goodman Road Variance Granted
Todd Long requested a five-foot variance in the front setback of his property at 168 Goodman Road to replace a dilapidated deck and to add a small sunroom to improve the property.
After investigating, Long discovered the current deck already extended three feet into the current UDO setback rules. He also discovered that at five other nearby properties, older homes like his own were also encroaching on the current UDO 25-foot setback requirements.
With NCDOT 60-foot right-of-way and the Troutman setback, Long said homes must now be 55 feet from the center line of the road.
Long’s conversation with the NCDOT indicated that the dead-end Goodman Road would likely never be expanded to a four-lane road because if the land at the end were developed, the NCDOT would recommend access through Monbo Road because of heavy traffic already present at the ABC Store at the entrance of Goodman Road.
Long can rebuild the grandfathered deck to its current three-foot encroachment but asked for the two additional feet to allow him to build a functional 10-foot-by-14-foot sunroom with a small adjoining deck, which would improve the home’s appearance and increase the neighborhood’s property values.
The board unanimously approved four findings of fact to allow it to grant the variance: that following the ordinance would cause unnecessary hardship, that the variance is in harmony with the area, that public safety and welfare are not disturbed, and that the variance was minimal and justified.
Wells suggested that the town might want to revisit this ordinance’s effect on older neighborhoods to reflect that the average setback required for a street should become the norm for that particular area.
Since this was the first meeting of 2021 of the board, a new chair and vice chair had to be elected. Tamara Hatley was chosen as the chair and Michelle Peck as vice chair.
Meeting Schedule Established
The Board of Adjustment has met on demand in the past, but Wells suggested setting a monthly meeting that can be cancelled if no business is before the board. This action would help applicants to schedule requests before the board.
The board voted to schedule a meeting for the third Thursday of each month at 3 p.m., which helps organize their own schedules and ensures staff will be on hand to answer questions without added costs to the town.