FAIR HAVEN: ACME CENTER MAKEOVER OK’D

Three renderings of the proposed monument sign that proved a sticking point for planning board members. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A makeover of Fair Haven’s dowdy Acme shopping center won borough planning board approval Tuesday night, but minus a proposed slab of signage that dominated a three-hour meeting.

The monument sign would call out stores in a building not visible from River Road. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

At the second hearing on the proposed changes, an engineer and an architect for the 1950s-vintage strip mall detailed revisions regarding landscaping, lighting and signage.

In that last category was an omnibus sign calling out the names of businesses in an 8,000-square-foot building that’s not visible from River Road out front. Sited at the far northeast corner of the property and abutting the northern wall of the former Laird’s Stationery space, the sign proved problematic to board members.

For one thing, it “couldn’t be any farther  away from the stores you’re trying to call attention to,” said board Chairman Jake Rue. He and other board members also raised concerns about the visibility of passing bicyclists and pedestrians to motorists exiting the center.

Several members pressed the applicant to relocate the sign to the northwest corner of the site, beside a Valero filling station, but architect Jim McGillin replied that wasn’t feasible.

In a late-hour suggestion, McGillin proposed altering the monument sign so that there would be six feet of clearance underneath, a change that the board was generally amenable to. Still, member Todd Lehder said he would prefer to see drawings of the changes, and suggested the board vote on that piece separately.

With the assent of Michael Bruno, the lawyer for the property owner, the board made approval of the sign a condition of overall approval, with a hearing on the sign scheduled for April 27.

Alison Dale cast the lone “no” vote in the 7 to 1 decision approving the rest of the project. She cited an objection to the method of sign illumination.

Dan Hughes, a principal in the company that bought the 16-store, 4.4-acre center for for $5.8 million two years ago, had previously told the board the project could be completed by the end of October if it approved the makeover plan this month. Otherwise, construction would be delayed until next March, he said.

The center is home to a post office, a liquor store, a vegan restaurant and other businesses spread across three buildings. The former TD Bank space has been leased to Chase Bank, which has begun work inside and will continue to use the existing drive-thru.

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