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Ashton Place Kroger may erect new sign no taller than original

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kroger store at Ashton Place can have a new sign that's higher than zoning rules allow -- but not as high as company officials had wanted, Charleston zoning officials decided Thursday.

Plans presented by J.S. Signs Inc. to the city's Board of Zoning Appeals showed a proposed sign measuring 35 feet tall -- 15 feet higher than the city allows for village-commercial districts like Ashton Place.

The shopping center's existing sign, along Corridor G, is 28 feet tall, but it already had been erected when the new limits were set.

Zoning board members decided to allow the new Kroger sign to remain at that height.

Bob Deriggi, general manager of J.D. Signs, said that will send the company back to the drawing board. The larger sign would have allowed all 15 Ashton Place tenants to have a sign at the shopping center's entrance, he said.

Options for a small sign would be "downsizing the panels, risking effective visibility, or eliminating them altogether," Deriggi said.

The Kroger Co. bought the Ashton Place shopping center earlier this year and began renovating the grocery store in May. The store remains open, and the renovated deli, cheese shop and seating area will open Nov. 22. Kroger spokeswoman Allison McGee said renovations should be completed by May or June.

Also at Thursday's meeting:

• Charleston Area Medical Center received a conditional-use permit and waiver that would allow a parking lot to be built at the former site of the Arthur B. Hodges Center -- a nursing home the hospital demolished in April.

The parking lot would alleviate some of the stress caused by traffic in the hospital's parking garage, located along Lewis Street, according to architect Aric Margolis, who applied for the permit and variance on behalf of CAMC.

"The biggest issue they have with the parking is at shift change," Margolis said. "They have to hold some 300 cars back in the parking garage just to allow their employees to come at 3 o'clock and have a place to park.

Because the site was zoned as "residential office," plans to have the lot 10 feet from Morris Street would not be in compliance with the designation. Residential office properties are required to be set back by 15 feet.

The conditional-use permit allows CAMC to build the parking lot, while the approval of the waiver keeps the lot's design consistent with an existing lot that sits along Baker Street, Margolis said.

New EPA regulations require properties to hold an inch of rainfall, Margolis said. The extra space in the parking lot would make room for a rain garden, which would keep the lot in compliance with the regulation.

• Owners of a proposed Fox's Pizza Den at 709 Ruffner Ave. received a waiver eliminating the requirement for carryout restaurants to have on-site parking.

Lori Brannon, of the city's Planning Department, said the building -- vacant for at least a decade -- has virtually no on-site parking and that any proposal for the property would need a waiver.

"It's our feeling that this is about the least-intense use you're going to get proposed for a building in this area," Brannon said.

James Martin said he and co-owner Paul Divita hope to have the restaurant between Dixie and Smith streets open shortly after the first of the year.

• Adam Krason, a developer at ZMM Inc., received a variance that allows more on-site parking in front of a planned commercial space at 5510 MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City. Dr. Antoine Skaff owns the site.

The decision was made after planning officials said the ordinance that requires 80 percent of on-site parking to be behind the building had "unintended consequences."

"Our idea was to bring the building up to the street, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment, but what the ordinance is really doing is making buildings turn their back on the street," said Planning Director Dan Vriendt.

Vriendt said the Planning Department is looking into changing the requirement because of the number of variances the board has issued.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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