McDonald’s sign in Valparaiso a lightning rod for BZA debate
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent April 23, 2013 10:16PM
Updated: May 29, 2013 6:12AM
VALPARAISO — The McDonald’s at 2002 Calumet Ave. wants to make what its representatives call repairs to its 30-foot sign in front of the restaurant.
However, City Planner Tyler Kent denied a permit for the changes in January, saying changes Restaurant Management Corp. requests are too radical a change to allow the sign to remain grandfathered in for an area that now requires “monument” signs that are close to the ground.
The corporation, which owns 25 restaurants in Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area, plans to take the sign down and cut the match plates off with a blow torch.
The match plates go on the bottom of the sign and top of the pole and connect the two with bolts.
The corporation also wants to put a 4-foot high re-enforcement collar around the base of the 16-foot pole to support it.
And after a two-hour, court-style hearing on Tuesday, the Valparaiso Board of Zoning Appeals took the matter under advisement.
The board members should make a decision by their May 21 meeting, directing board attorney Patrick Lyp said.
Todd Leeth, attorney for the corporation, argued that although there are structural changes being made, they do not “significantly structurally alter” the sign, as stated in the city’s current Unified Development Ordinance.
He said the changes are repairs and maintenance, which are allowed and encouraged under the UDO.
The changes will not benefit the business for Restaurant Management Corp. but improve safety.
Leeth compared the re-enforcement collar to using cast to heal an arm, which doesn’t alter the arm, but BZA member Elizabeth Lynn compared it to leaving the cast on permanently.
The city maintains that the changes are significant alterations that will extend the sign beyond its natural life, which the ordinance doesn’t allow.
Engineer Brent Leatherman of Timber Tech Engineering in Kouts said the collar would add support to the sign base.
Leeth and Bill Phillips, director of facilities for Restaurant Management Corp., said they had no plans to take further legal action if the BZA doesn’t rule in their favor.
“We’re very confident these folks will make the right decision,” he said.