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September 24, 2011

 

Homer proposes banning LED signs in village

Public hearing on local law set for Tuesday as church sign sparks concern

HomerBob Ellis/staff photographer
The now completed electronic sign on the Homer Village Green, erected by the Homer Congregational Church.

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandardnews.net

HOMER — Citing Homer’s historic nature and a new sign in front of the Homer Congregational Church, the village is considering a ban on electronic signs.
There will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, in the Community Building behind the fire station.
The decision comes a few months after officials from the Homer Congregational Church installed a sign on the Village Green with a flashing LED, or light-emitting diode, message board.
“We just feel LED signs are out of character with the historic nature of the village,” said Andy Brush, a village trustee.
The church’s sign sparked concern in some village residents, who say it does not respect the historic qualities of the Village Green.
“There should be some protections for the wonderful history we have,” said Kim Hubbard, a Homer resident who has been a critic of the church sign.
The proposed law says “the display of signs implementing the use of Light Emitting Diodes (LED) is deemed to be inconsistent with the character of the village of Homer.”
Existing LED signs will be allowed for two years after the law passes. After that period, the owners of those signs will need to take them down or get a non-conforming use variance.
The Rev. James Ziobro, of the Homer Congregational Church, said he was “dismayed” about the proposed law. He said the total cost for the sign was nearly $12,000 and that church officials expected it to “mark the church” for years to come.
“When we heard about the new law, many, many church members were surprised,” Ziobro said.
The church received approval from the village Zoning Board of Appeals last fall to erect its sign. He said the decision to put up the sign was “strongly supported” by church officials.
The First Religious Society founded the church and owns the Village Green. The church has been on the green since 1801.
Ziobro said he had to be careful about speaking publicly about the sign law, as the issue has created a lot of controversy in the village.
“It seems like an unfortunate law,” Ziobro said.
For village residents, the church’s sign represents a confrontation between the past and present. One faction says LED signs are an acceptable example of modern technology. Others argue the village’s historic qualities need to be protected and preserved.
“There is a merchandising value of being historic,” Hubbard said, adding Homer’s Main Street and side streets have a historic look that appeals to businesses looking to relocate.
Kevin Williams owns the Homer IGA on Main Street. He said he did not have a problem with LED signs and worried the LED ban was too broad.
“LED is an emerging technology that is super-efficient,” Williams said.
Hubbard and former Mayor Mary Alice Bellardini have criticized the church for its sign. But both said the proposed village law may be too extensive, banning LED signs throughout the village instead of just the historic areas around Main Street.
Mayor Genevieve Suits could not be reach for comment.
Brush said village officials would get feedback on the law at Tuesday’s public hearing and could vote on it during the Oct. 4 meeting.

 

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