Farmington TPZ Candidates Say Sign Color Not An Issue

Date: 10/27/2011


Farmington, Conn., Oct. 27, 2011- Most of the candidates for the Town Planning & Zoning (TPZ) Commission say that, if elected, color will not be an issue when they vote on whether to approve a sign application.
That’s the consensus of the four Republican candidates, plus James “Skip” Pogson, the incumbent TPZ chairman who is running as a petition candidate after failing to get the Republican nomination for re-election, during brief, 20-minute interviews conducted by the Government Affairs Committee of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce. The four Democratic candidates for TPZ declined two separate invitations to participate in the interviews asking for their broad interpretations of zoning regulations.
The four – Peter Bagdidian and Jack Matava, both candidates for regular TPZ Commission membership; and Mary Jane Parlow and Todd Litchfield, both candidates for alternate membership – declined the first invitation because the interviews were inadvertently scheduled for the same night as a Democratic rally and fundraiser. Litchfield communicated via e-mail that the Democrats declined the second invitation because, “it would be inappropriate to even attempt to offer an opinion (on zoning regulations) as doing such would compromise the impartiality of the commission and may create a situation in which present or future members would be disqualified from participating in the process for which we were elected to administer.” 
Topping the list of questions Bill Neagus, chair of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee; and committee member Brendan Moran, asked the TPZ candidates was whether it would be inappropriate for the TPZ Commission to reject a sign application because the members don’t like the proposed color of the sign, particularly if the sign is part of a corporate logo.
All four Republicans, Don Doeg and James LeBlanc, both candidates for regular membership; Robert Jarvis and Peter Mastrobattista, both candidates for alternate membership, agreed that color cannot be the deciding factor when the commission votes on a sign application.
“The regulations dictate that we can consider the size of signs, the height and the location of signs, but state statutes don’t allow us to dictate colors,” said Doeg, a construction lawyer who is also a LEED accredited engineer. “We can have a discussion about color, but we cannot dictate color.”
Pogson, a local contractor, agreed that color is not included in the zoning regulations and should not be the deciding factor, but added that, “Farmington has premier office and business space and in some cases there are signs that just don’t fit.
“The commission has bent over backwards over the last 10 years to accommodate colors and logos,” Pogson said.
The larger issue, he said, is whether signs have internal illumination, which the regulations ban. Pogson pointed out that the Subway restaurant on Route 4 has a sign on its building that includes the three Subway corporate colors of green, yellow and white. But, he explained, because Subway insisted on also having an internally illuminated sign, a compromise was struck so that the colors on the street-side sign are restricted to green and white, deleting the corporate yellow.
On the question whether they would consider the potential job creation and tax revenue of a proposal if all other zoning regulations were met, the Republicans unanimously said yes.
“Absolutely,” said Jarvis, who works as the Windsor town engineer. “I would like to apply the regulations as written. I don’t believe in applying them arbitrarily, so if all the regulations are met, yes, we should account for the economics.”
Mastrobattista, a manufacturing company owner, called a situation where all the zoning regulations are met for a project that includes potential new tax revenue and job creation, “a win-win situation.”
Pogson disagreed, noting that “economics is not in our purview.”
LeBlanc, a landscape architect, said there should be balance between commercial and residential zoning. But, he said, if an application for a commercial project is claimed to be threatening a residential neighborhood, “there are design elements to minimize” the commercial impact on the neighborhood.
Asked whether they would be heavily influenced by a large group of residents who oppose a project, all five candidates agreed that project applications must be decided based on the zoning regulations, not the size or aggressiveness of opposition groups.
“We had more than 200 people in a hearing opposing the (expansion of Westfarms) mall 18 years ago, but we were not intimidated,” said Pogson.
Doeg noted that, “listening to the public is important, but my job is to make sure that zoning follows the rules.”
The Farmington Chamber of Commerce is composed of large, medium and small businesses throughout the Town of Farmington and neighboring towns. Its purpose is to advocate for its members while providing educational, insurance, networking and other benefits that help its members thrive.

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