By Kathleen Kellogg

The Ellicottville Town Planning Board met Monday, Feb. 26 and mapped out a set of zoning code amendments for message boards and approved some conditions for signage at a Stilllhouse restaurant, brewery and distillery set to open soon.

The two-story building, constructed last fall just north of the intersection of Routes 219 and 242 and east of Tim Horton’s, will house a restaurant and bar with 54 beer taps. Plans also call for a 5,000 square foot facility for an in-house brewery, winery and distillery. The project has received $750,000 in County Industrial Development Agency tax incentives and projects 10-14 employees.

Carl Calarco, an engineer who designed the structure and attended the meeting, said the opening is targeted for April.

Before voting to grant a sign permit and a set of revised conditions, the Board members pored over drawings provided by the applicant, as well as the site plan that was approved in 2016, discussing at length the lighting for the Stillhouse signage proposal. One round sign and one rectangular sign were requested, with a gooseneck overhead light and an awning.

The Board members discussed the proposal’s features for the central image of a raised skull image, surrounded by 6 mm LED bulbs with unknown wattage on at least one of the signs. Also discussed at length were regulations forbidding backlighting and internal lighting, distance from the roadway and questioned a slogan to appear with the Stillhouse name on the awning, “Where Buffalo Meets Ellicottville,” along with other factors.

The approved permit will have five attached conditions: A wall sign on the south facade must be limited to 96 square feet, while size will be limited to 50 feet for a wall sign on the west facade. LED lighting for the sign must be accent-only and dimmable, with the goal of preventing glare on the busy roadway. Lettering on the Stillhouse awning must be limited to the name of the business. A logo shown on the application drawings at lower left side of the south facade will not be permitted. And a revised drawing must be provided to the Code Enforcement Officer before permits are issued for gooseneck lighting over the rectangular sign on the south side of the facade, reconciling an apparent conflict with the sign structure.

Town Planner Gary Palumbo asked the Board to consider issues regarding the Stillhouse parking lot.

The approved site plan called for a paved parking lot, but the Stillhouse owner now favors a special dry rolled concrete pavement design. Calarco told the Board that the surface is hard and more durable than asphalt.

He added that the owner has purchased another adjoining property and in the future may allow enlargement of the parking lot, acknowledging that this will the the subject of a future site plan application. All present agreed that an expansion of the parking lot would not be requested now to prevent interference with opening the business in April.

Town Engineer Mark Alianello said that in his opinion this surface, called Roller-Compacted Concrete (RCC), will work fine and accomplish what the Planning Board wants for the originally-approved site plan, though a new permit will have to be sought for another parking lot on the new parcel.

Palumbo cautioned that the adjoining lot cannot be used for parking until it is applied for, subjected to a public hearing and approved by the Planning Board.

The Board then took up Palumbo’s drafted changes in the sign code for “message boards”  that may receive Planning Board permits within the zoning law. 

The amendments in that section were discussed at length and refined by the group, and the  new draft was found acceptable to send to the town board for further review.

In general, electronic message board signs will be redefined, and provisions made to allow a larger percentage of the overall sign area to contain a digital, static, changeable display lasting five seconds, with the transition to be instantaneous.

Current regulations limit message boards to two changes per day and state the changeable message surface may only take up half the full sign. The amendment would allow a two-thirds area for the message.

There will be limitations for the distance of these signs from certain zoning districts, with the goal of limiting impact on nearby residences. The draft states message board signs will not be permitted in C, A-R, LD or MD districts.

A zoning amendment will be sent to the Town Board for review and revision and referred back to the Planning Board if it is found acceptable. A public hearing, along with a SEQR determination, will be required before it is eventually ultimately approved, or shelved, by the Town Board.

Palumbo also informed the Board that he received an inquiry from a Verizon engineer interested in installing micro-cellular boosters in the town. He said these micro-antennas are placed on buildings or utility poles with transformers to fill in holes in coverage and improve the quality of reception for the surround 1,000 square feet.

The town’s regulations deal with telecommunications towers and Palumbo said he will ask the Verizon representative to approach any project from that perspective. Several Board members said they want to cooperate with any effort that will improve power and capacity while avoiding more towers.

Some discussion focused on Spectrum’s booster “boxes” that have been installed on power poles around the town. Each is placed on poles with transformers and contain three led-acid batteries.