By Rick Miller
The sign outside St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Route 219 started as a temporary sign — 35 years ago.
Its messages have conveyed news about the next spaghetti dinner, poked fun at the Patriots and generally lifted the spirits of passersby.
At the end of the month, the sign will be retired under an agreement between church officials and the Ellicottville building code enforcement officer.
“We’ve had a couple of those (messages) go viral and go all over the country,” the Rev. Daniel Buringrud, St. Paul’s pastor, said Friday.
One of those messages: “Please God — Anybody but the Patriots.” was especially uplifting to Western New York Bills fans.
Another said: “God Help Me To Be The Person My Dog Thinks I Am.” Still another: “God Loves You More Than Kanye Loves Kanye.”
“It’s nice to put out something to make you smile,” Buringrud said.
Building Code Enforcement Officer Kelly Fredrickson notified the church that the temporary sign did not conform to the building code which limits properties to one sign. The church could apply to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance, he told church officials.
“Kelly has been working with us,” Buringrud said. “We don’t have a beef with him or anyone else. We want to be good citizens. We want to help.”
Then the sign changed two weeks ago to read: “After 35 years EVL Says Sign Must Go. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.”
That set off a flurry of comments under a picture of the sign on the church’s Facebook page, including one proposing that a “#savethesign” begin. Some examples:
• … “a sign like that has been out there since I was in middle school and now they have a problem with it…. Grrrr.”
• “This has been there forever it seems like. I’ve been going to this church since I was little and the sign never bothered before and still doesn’t bother.”
• “The code says each business is allowed 1 permanent sign so that the property doesn’t become cluttered.”
• “That’s just ridiculous! We love your messages on the sign. All positive!”
• “Where is the petition to save the sign?”
• “Seriously?? This was the highlight of my day everytime I drove through there. That’s awful!”
Supervisor Matthew McAndrew said the agreement to retire the sign wasn’t much of a story.
“It’s been a temporary sign for years,” he said, adding the town board had nothing to do with it.
When the Zoning Board of Appeals recently denied a request for a variance for an additional nearby sign, Fredrickson looked into the church’s iconic sign. It did not conform to the building code.
The church negotiated for the opportunity to put the sign up for church events such as their monthly spaghetti dinner, a popular fundraiser. The agreement calls for the sign to be up for seven days prior to an church event and taken down the following day.
“We’re going to roll out the sign when we have something going on,” Buringrud told the Olean Times Herald on Friday. “We may try to sneak in a message, too. We’re cooperating with the town, trying to work together.”
The church has looked into installing a modern LED sign, but the $20,000 to $25,000 price is out of reach, Buringrud said.
While it might look like the original sign, the pastor said the old sign was destroyed three years ago when a driver struck it with their car. The insurance company paid for a new, used sign that “looks exactly like the old one,” Buringrud said.
With the sign coming down at the end of the month, Buringrud said, “We’re trying to make the last few signs be positive and lift spirits.”
Last week it was changed to read: “Wherever U Read This Remember — God Loves U.”
This week there was another Bills-Patriots themed message.