Budget Tapes & Records co-owner Priscilla Pope said the zoning board previously turned down her request to replace the existing wooden sign with a similar metal-clad version. Her variance application, like the one for Firestone prepared by Reaford Walker of Reaford Signs, calls for removing the existing 10- by 15-foot sign and replacing it with a 5- by 15-foot aluminum one with just the name of the store.
Still, Pope would prefer to keep the original design. "I'm going to ask them to approve the same sign in metal," she said. "It's been our logo forever. We started in the hippie era, back in the '70s. That was the way everybody looked. It's a hippie-looking guy. He's got a Budget T-shirt and a peace symbol belt buckle.
"We're one of the last local businesses left in the area," Pope said. "The downtown's gone. [The sign's] been around for years. It's historical."
Charleston zoning laws have forbidden projecting signs since before 1983, said Dan Vriendt, the city's planning director. "I don't know the rationale," he said. "Probably aesthetic."
But those rules may be changing, especially as city officials are poised to adopt new comprehensive and downtown redevelopment plans under the Imagine Charleston process.
"The idea of projecting signs ... we want to allow signs of historic value and have a discussion on whether to have projecting signs at all," Vriendt said. "That's something where we would want community discussion.
"It's safe to say this office is always an advocate for historic preservation. We have talked about a text amendment [to the zoning law] to allow historic signs to be modernized. If we did that, it would be something among other suggestions from Imagine Charleston.
"The Firestone sign and the Fountain Hobby signs, these are historic in nature," Vriendt said. "These are unusual in that almost every case you want to bring nonconforming signs into compliance.
"In many cases, nonconforming signs are too large or too tall. But these are reasonably sized signs and they have historic value."
Johnson said projecting signs make sense on the West Side.
"As you pass businesses, if you don't have a hanging sign, it's kind of hard to see the business, especially in the Elk City district."
Reach Jim Balow at ba...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.