FLINT TWP. — In a 2-2 tie vote last week, the Zoning Board of Appeals turned down a sign variance request for sports star Morris Peterson’s Mo Pete’s Sports Retreat, due to open next month.
But one member of the five-member appeals board was absent so they have been asked to reconsider their vote this week at a meeting on Wednesday, October 25.
The applicants, MVN LLC, are requesting a projecting sign up to 72 inches into the walkway – about six times larger than the allowed 12 inches.
“Because of the position of our location, we need to be seen from the parking lot and every vantage point so we can compete and let our guests know they have arrived at Morris Peterson’s Sports bar,” is the reason for the request stated on the application for the variance.
Mo Pete’s will be located in the Outdoor Village open section of the mall. in a space formerly occupied by Chico’s women’s clothing store. Bar Louie’s and Barnes & Noble bookstore have frontage off the parking lot. Several other businesses also operate along that corridor.
“We disappear without proposed sign,” was one reason given to demonstrate a practical hardship. “We are at a disadvantage without it.”
Morris Peterson was not present at the meeting. His representative, Nik Gjonaj of Holly presented the request to the board.
“We are investing thousands of dollars in that space,” Gjonaj said, adding that they also are bringing about 25 jobs.
Board Chairman Roger Powell, who cast one of the no votes, said he noted five or six other businesses along that corridor, none of which have a protruding sign nor do any others at the mall.
“Everybody wants visibility, I understand that, he said adding that the sign requested is not in keeping with the spirt of the ordinance which limits signs to 12 inches.
Larry Ford, a board member who voted for the sign variance, tried working with Gjonaj to adjust the sign request by toning down its exposed LED lightbulbs which are “gaudy.”
Ford also noted that times are changing and, according to what he has read, many malls are now deviating from traditional retail tenants.
“We may be facing a need to change our sign restrictions.” Ford said.
Powell noted that the board was being asked to vote on the size of the sign, not the lighting or other aspects of the mall’s tenant policies.
Ford said he had reservations about the lighting chose for the sign but was willing to grant the requested size to help the business be competitive. He said he would prefer to see a bit more “sophisticated” lighting.
As proposed, the 168 inches tall sign with bright LED bulbs would wash out visibility for other businesses in the corridor. Board members discussed concern about creating a “carnival” like atmosphere. It also was stated during the discussion that the township is already getting pushback from the proliferation of bright LED display bulbs being used by other businesses in the township.
After the board voted down the variance request, Ford moved to reconsider but his motion died for lack of support.
Ed White, board vice chairman who also voted no, indicated he might change his vote if the lighting issue gets resolved. Frank Kasle, a zoning board member and township trustee, was absent.
Commissioner Val Shaheen, who ultimately cast a yes vote with Ford, noted that other mall businesses might ask for similar sign variances.
The board’s reconsideration vote took place after deadline for this publication.