‘Billboard’ signs spark debate in Troy

 This 200-square-foot electronic sign at 1975 E. Maple Road, just west of John R Road, has spurred concerns about what the content of the sign may be.   LEFT: This 200-square-foot electronic sign at 3410 Rochester Road, north of Big Beaver Road, is currently allowed under the city’s sign ordinance.

This 200-square-foot electronic sign at 1975 E. Maple Road, just west of John R Road, has spurred concerns about what the content of the sign may be. LEFT: This 200-square-foot electronic sign at 3410 Rochester Road, north of Big Beaver Road, is currently allowed under the city’s sign ordinance.

Photo by Deb Jacques


By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published November 28, 2017

TROY — A flurry of new 200-square-foot signs, seen along stretches of Rochester Road, Dequindre Road and Maple Road, with more to come, has residents and business owners wondering — what will be posted, when will they be turned on and how did they get there?

Residents and a business owner voiced their concerns at a Troy City Council meeting Nov. 20. 

Councilman Dave Henderson brought the matter forward to propose a 180-day moratorium on issuing permits for ground signs exceeding 100 square feet, which was amended to be all signs. The council approved the moratorium 6-0. Councilman Ethan Baker was absent; he joined the meeting via Skype but did not vote. The council suspended its rule prohibiting wire communications by council members during meetings to allow it. 

At issue are five 200-square-foot signs allowed under the current city ordinance that have recently been constructed. One is on Dequindre Road, north of 14 Mile Road; three are on Rochester Road — one south of Long Lake Road and two south of Wattles Road; and one is on Maple Road, at John R Road. 

In addition, permits have been approved for 200-square-foot signs to be constructed on Livernois Road, just north of Maple Road, and on Maple Road, west of Dequindre Road and west of Stephenson Highway, but those had not been constructed at press time. 

At press time, none of the signs had been activated. 

Troy resident Alec Peeples asked the council to eliminate the “billboards” already up. 

“They do not in any way fit in with the vision of the master plan.” 

He said residents should organize against the businesses that allowed the signs.

Resident Jeremy Kroll described the signs as an “eyesore.” He said he worries that the signs will distract drivers, and he’s concerned about the content of the signs. 

“These billboards, unfortunately, are what Troy will be known for,” said resident David Barron. 

“This is wrong,” said Tim Ferasin, who owns Alpha Home Décor, at Rochester and Long Lake roads. “What happened to convince those on guard in the city to allow those billboards to go up?” 

In the council reports for the City Council’s Feb. 6 meeting, Economic and Community Development Director Mark Miller, Planning Director R. Brent Savidant, and Zoning and Compliance Specialist Paul Evans wrote a joint letter to City Manager Brian Kischnick regarding “sign permit application status.” 

The letter states that “the Planning Department has received applications for identical ground signs at three separate locations. It is possible staff or council could receive questions from the public regarding the signs. The intent of this report is to inform you of the pending applications.

“The properties are located on (business) zoning districts. Each sign computes to 200 square feet in area, 25 feet height, leading edge setback 30 feet from the right of way. Subject to minor design changes related to the support structure, the applications comply with the sign ordinance. Copies of relevant permit application pages are attached for reference.” 

The council took no action on the matter at that time, but noted and filed the report. 

 

Council weighs in
“It did not register what this meant,” said Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek. She noted that it was a “short report,” and it should have “been red-flagged somehow. I apologize. I missed it.” 

“It’s very embarrassing,” said Councilman Ed Pennington. “We dropped the ball. We’re on it now.” 

“Under the current ordinance, the size of the signs (200 square feet) are permitted,” said City Attorney Lori Grigg-Bluhm. 

Mayor Dane Slater said the sign ordinance was written 30 years ago. 

“Somebody found a loophole,” he said. 

Calls to the applicant for the sign permits, Troy Outdoor LLC, were not returned by press time. 

“This isn’t the vision we had for Rochester Road,” said Mayor Pro Tem Edna Abrahim. 

In response to the request to remove the signs through legal channels, Grigg-Bluhm said, “We are going to take some time to look into it.” 

Troy resident Louis Sharkas, owner of Sharks BBQ on Rochester Road, near Long Lake Road, said there is a 200-square-foot sign in front of his business. Sharkas said the company he leases the property from, the Barbat Organization, also leases the land the sign sits on. He said he had nothing to do with placement of the sign, but he is considering advertising on it. 

“I didn’t know it was going up,” he said. 

Calls to the Barbat Organization were not returned by press time. 

Sharkas expressed concern over what will be on the sign. 

“We all have to advertise,” Sharkas said. “If it’s sleazy stuff, I’ll be the first one confronting this.” 

Randy Newman, owner of Randy’s Eli of Troy Menswear on Rochester Road, north of Long Lake Road, said he has looked into advertising on the sign down the street from his store, but he remains unsure. 

“I don’t have a problem with them (signs) myself, but I’m afraid the sign might aggravate my customers.” 

He said one of his customers has said that if Newman advertises on the sign, the customer would no longer patronize his business.