By Don Nelson
Although Mike Kutz got the town’s OK for the signage painted on his new Bunkhouse Inn lodging establishment in Winthrop, he may still have to alter or remove the verbiage from the side of building.
It’s complicated, but went like this: Kutz sought and got approval for the sign from the town’s Westernization Architectural Committee (WAC). Then a neighbor, Peter Larsen at 225 Bridge St., complained to the town that what he called the “large, billboard type sign” on the end of the Bunkhouse Inn facing his property is not in compliance with the town’s zoning code, and devalues his property. (The Bunkhouse Inn faces Bluff Street but its address is 226 Bridge St.)
Larsen was right about the zoning. The Bunkhouse Inn is in a B1 business zone. Within a B1 zone, buildings are limited to one sign with a total coverage area of 9 square feet. The Bunkhouse Inn has a sign painted on each end of the building.
However, when the WAC approved the Bunkhouse Inn signage, the committee was not aware of the B1 restrictions, town planner Rocklynn Culp told the town council at its meeting last week. In B2 and B3 business zones (such as Riverside Avenue), there are no such restrictions as long as the signs meet the Westernization guidelines.
“It’s unique to the B1 zone,” Culp said about the signage restrictions this week. “It’s the odd one.”
In a memo to the town council, Culp noted that the WAC process does not include a sign-off by the zoning administrator, a position Culp also fills.
In a separate memo to the council, the WAC suggested that the Westernization regulations be changed to make them consistent with the zoning code. “The committee feels that it is important to blend with the surrounding residential uses in this area and that signage should in fact be held to a minimum.”
Culp told the council that existing signs in the B1 zone appear to either be compliant or were “grandfathered” in.
In a letter to Kutz, Culp said the town is revoking its approval for the signs and instructed him to stop any work still in progress until the town figures out what to do.
If the town council chooses to keep B1 zoning requirements consistent — which is the staff recommendation — Kutz may have to paint over the Bunkhouse Inn signs because the WAC can’t unilaterally approve a sign that’s not in compliance with existing zoning.
Or the council could find a way to leave the existing Bunkhouse Inn signs in place, Culp said.
The council wasn’t prepared to decide one way or the other at its meeting last week, and tabled the issue until council member Rick Northcott, who missed the meeting, can be in attendance.
Council members Gaile Bryant-Cannon and Mort Banasky said they had looked at the Bunkhouse Inn signage and did not find it objectionable. “I expected to find it offensive but didn’t,” Banasky said.
Council member Mike Strulic said the issue puts the town in a “sticky situation” because even if the town requires Kutz to comply with the B1 zoning limits for signs, the process raises a question of fairness. “We need a fair playing field for everyone,” he said.
The six-unit Bunkhouse Inn opened in late 2013. It is operated by Kutz and his partner, Anna Rogers.