For the first time this year, a sign variance request made by a local business owner in Grosse Pointe Woods was approved by the city council Monday night.
The variance will allow Woods Wholesale Wine owner Bill Matouk to add a third sign to his business, 20787 Mack Ave., to better explain what merchandise he offers inside. Matouk is on the Mayor's Mack Avenue Business Study Committee that has resurfaced this year to address business issues within the city.
Matouk was originally denied the variance by Woods Building Official Gene Tutag as the ordinance guiding signs only permits two signs per business. Matouk appealed the decision, having it go before the city council Monday night.
In the meantime, the Planning Commission also reviewed the request and found that a variance would be appropriate, recommending council to approve the variance request stating the sign does not violate the spirit of the ordinance and would be in the best interest of the city, according to a memorandum submitted to council.
Matouk was the only person to speak about the variance. He asked council to approve the variance explaining that much of the front of his building is blocked and the additional sign is intended to allow passersby know what is sold at the business. While there is a heavy concentration on wine, the business also offers liquor, beer and cigars.
Matouk told the council the sign was designed with the best of intentions and is appealing to the eye. "There was a lot of time put in to create the sign and we were careful about the wording," Matouk said, explaining how he chose to use the word spirits rather than liquor.
Council discussed the request briefly before voting unanimously to approve it. A few members expressed concerns about the seemingly indecisive nature of such requests noting previous variance requests that were denied.
Among the requests late last year and early this year are:
The Little Blue Book relocated to the Woods from the Park and sought a variance to install four small signs on the front of its business but was denied for having more than two signs as allowed in the ordinance.
Meanwhile, Telly's Place owners installed two new signs on the front of their building without first seeking persmission, also making the total number of signs four. The council approved the signage afterward.
Then an insurance agent who moved to a new location wanted to put a sign on the side of the building to let passersby know where the office is but the Woods council denied that request.
Councilman Michael Koester questioned why some businesses are denied and others are granted the variance. He said he was not necessarily comfortable with approving it after not approving the insurance business request. He said he would like the Planning Commission to come up with a better system for when the ordinance should be followed.
Councilwoman Vicki Granger voiced a similar opinion noting the approval of Telly's after the signs were installed.
Mayor Robert Novitke said he was also "reluctant to grant variances after having denied two." He then pointed out that when the council is repeatedly receiving such requests, there is a need to review the ordinance itself because clearly there is an issue that should be addressed.
Novitke said the planning commission is already reviewing the sign ordinance for that exact reason. After the council unanimously voted to approve the request from Matouk, Novitke said he believed he was not the only person who appreciated what Matouk has done with the building to improve its appearance.