The glow from LEDs like those on the Shell sign in Rhinebeck on 9G  (shown above) will soon be felt in the heart of the village.
The glow from LEDs like those on the Shell sign in Rhinebeck on 9G (shown above) will soon be felt in the heart of the village.

First LED sign coming to Red Hook village

Planners approve new look under grandfather clause

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The Village of Red Hook planning board has approved a dual-post, internally illuminated sign with LED numbering for the former Getty (now-Sunoco) station in the heart of the village.

The slightly taller new sign will replace the existing, single-pole 16-foot sign, and its approval comes just two months after a number of planning board members rejected a proposed LED sign using the same pole.

While village zoning law does not allow new, internally lit signs nor signs taller than 10 feet, the existing sign apparently pre-dates the code and is grandfathered in, exempt from updated codes.

“The existing sign is considered grandfathered,” said Rodney Morrison when reached by phone after the June 14 meeting where the decision was made. ” It came to us from [Village Zoning Enforcement Officer] Sam Harkins that it was grandfathered. We didn’t question that part of it.”

The applicant, NW Signs, had offered two signage options to the planning board: one with LED numbers for gas prices and a shorter, monument-style sign with traditional, hand-changed pricing numbers. With this approval, other businesses with existing illuminated signage like XtraMart may decide to apply for LED signage.

“I personally pressed to have them get rid of it and give us something new that looks better,” said Morrison who served as acting chair in the June 14 meeting. “It’s two posts, the same height as the current sign, it looks better than the old existing post…. They kept wanting to re-use the pole, and again that’s where we started to work with them to say, bring in a different sign as long as your sign area is the same, it’s fine by us.”

Typically, once a grandfathered sign is removed or altered, it is subject to the current zoning laws and must conform or receive a variance for issues like height or internal illumination. When asked whether completely replacing the sign should require the applicant to conform to the current village zoning that only allows externally lit signs shorter than 10 feet, Morrison said that he felt the planning board was acting within its rights approving the new sign.

When contacted about the approval, Mayor Ed Blundell declined comment on it until he was able to review the action in detail. However, he said, “Internally illuminated signs are no good for us [in the village]…. If [the Village Board] felt the planning board erred, as Mayor, I would take it to our legal counsel and say, ‘I don’t want erroneous findings, I want correct findings, and if someone wants to come for a variance, they can go to the ZBA.'”

Earlier this year, the village planning board had to rescind a sign approval given to a different applicant without proper variances.

As far as the LED signage, Morrison welcomes the new technology as an improvement.

“It’s a good technology. That’s what intrigues me about it — you can do a lot with it. Old signs, hand-changed signs, that stuff wears out and tends to look bad over time. Our real interest is the fact that the technology is good and it’s upgradeable, and obviously everyone would hope that it would continue to look good,” he said.

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