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Digital gas signs likely to be approved

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Michael Graney asks the city zoning board next month to allow him to install digital gasoline price signs at five One Stops across Charleston, he'll have at least one local group on his side.

East End Main Street board members voted Wednesday to support Graney's request for a zoning variance needed to modernize his sign at the One Stop/Exxon at 1639 Washington St. E.

Graney has similar requests for his stations on Oakwood Road, Lee Street West, Kanawha Boulevard West and MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City.

According to his applications with the Board of Zoning Appeals, One Stop wants to install LED digital electronic price signs to replace existing back-lit price signs, which have to be changed by hand whenever the price of gas goes up or down.

"We do not believe there is anything unusual or different about our property except that the existing price signs are old, out of date, and unsightly," Graney said in his application. "We want to join the rest of the fuel distribution business across the nation and post prices to the public using modern, attractive, electronic price signs."

Although some Charleston stations already have digital price signs, the city's 2005 zoning ordinance forbids "digital and electronic scrolling message signs, except for time, temperature, or date signs."

Zoning board members and city planning staff have traditionally held strict standards for granting sign variances. In 2009, the BZA ordered the owners of a Kanawha City 7-Eleven to remove a digital gas sign they had installed without getting a zoning variance.

That line may be softening, however.

Marc Weintraub, an East End city councilman and treasurer of East End Main Street, urged the Main Street board to support Graney's request.

"Go-Mart was able to get some of those signs in place before the zoning law was changed," he said. "From my perspective, I'm sympathetic of that. I don't see anything wrong with that."

Several years ago, council's Planning Committee wrestled with the digital sign issue for a year, Weintraub said. "There's just a whole range of opinion. There's the safety component."

Some say bright flashing and scrolling signs can be distracting for motorists. "If you drive up I-79 you'll see lots of flashing signs, Weintraub said.

"In this case, what's the difference between the old-style sign where they're putting the number up [by hand] and a digital sign? There's no down side. What's the problem?"

The BZA is scheduled to take up the sign variance requests at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 11.

In other business, board members unanimously elected Andy Milovich, executive vice president of the West Virginia Power, as president of the East End Main Street Board of Directors. He replaces Mary Anne Crickard, who served as president for eight years.

Other officers are: Keeley Steele, vice president; Weintraub, treasurer; and Mary Beth Hoover, secretary.

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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