Sign variance for church granted

Contributing Writer

A Coon Rapids church’s request for a 3-foot height variance to construct a monument sign off Hanson Boulevard was granted by the Coon Rapids Board of Appeals and Adjustment July 6.

Faith Lutheran Church, 11155 Hanson Blvd., sought the variance to remove the existing sign and replace it with a 13-foot high monument sign when the maximum height under code is 10 feet, although it met the 10-foot setback requirement.

In a letter to the board, the church wrote that recent obstructions, including two large city signs, have reduced the visibility of the existing sign from northbound Hanson lanes and moving the sign to the north and increasing its height will allow passers by to more easily read the sign, while the new sign will be “architecturally more appealing than our current sign and will improve the front of our property, thereby improving the looks of our community.”

In addition, the church pointed out that Epiphany Catholic Church, its “neighbor” on the south side of 111th Avenue and Hanson, has a similar sign to its request 13 feet high with a 10-foot setback.

“Precedence alone should warrant this variance,” the church stated.

But Planner Scott Harlicker, while acknowledging that the Epiphany sign was approved in error by the city, recommended denial of the variance because it did not meet the code requirements for a variance.

These include the variance being in harmony with the general purposes and intent of the ordinance, that without the variance the property cannot be used in a reasonable manner, the variance must be the minimum to make reasonable use of the property, there are circumstances unique to the property not created by the applicant or landowner and the variance will not alter the essential character of the locality, according to Harlicker.

But the three-member board of adjustment of appeals, which is appointed by the council, did not agree.

The board granted the variance, not because of the existing Epiphany sign, but on the merits of the church’s request, said Cheryl Bennett, city housing and zoning coordinator.

“The board found that the variance met the intent of the ordinance,” she said.

According to Bennett, the board found that existing large signs on Hanson, the planned construction of the Hanson bridge of the railroad just south of the church, the topography of the land and parking lot snow storage demonstrated practical difficulties in meeting the sign height required by code and the 13 feet proposed was the minimum necessary.

Community Development Director Grant Fernelius said the permit for the 13-foot Epiphany sign was granted by the city a few years ago and there was no intent to make the church take down the sign, even though it is an illegal sign.

“We have not been in contact with Epiphany, but we do need to acknowledge what happened,” he said.

Indeed, it might be time for the city take a look at existing sign code provisions to see if changes are needed, according to Fernelius.