A Crestwood alderman who compared the abundance of auto-related businesses on Watson Road to South Kingshighway has caught some heat. Two Watson Road business owners countered that the city should be more business friendly.
Alderman Jerry Miguel’s comment was made during the Feb. 13 sign commission meeting, when A to Z Auto Center owner Larry Sturm was being reviewed for a variance to display window signage and additional signs on his property.
Sturm moved his business to Crestwood 10 years ago. He said he felt the signage makes his business more visible to customers.
“When I came to Crestwood, nobody asked me or brought up the fact that I had an auto repair shop. They just said, ‘Thanks for coming to Crestwood, I hope you do well,’” he said. However, he believes it’s Miguel’s intent that auto businesses are not seen.
Since his move to the property, Sturm said he’s had to move signs 30 feet from the street, install concrete curbs, and add foliage to the site. Recent remodeling cost up to $10,000 more than planned, he said.
Ernie Patti Auto Leasing owner Jay Wiseman said while business has doubled with his move from Sunset Hills to Crestwood, he agrees that the city isn’t business friendly. Only one alderman—Miguel—has been on his property, he said.
“We have some serious problems in Crestwood. I believe… the small business is the lynchpin of your community, ladies and gentlemen, and there’s a lot of us that don’t feel you’re very business friendly, myself especially,” Wiseman said. “If a small business can’t get the support and the backing from your mayor and your board, how do you expect someone to come into [Crestwood Court], when you’re not welcoming us?”
Miguel told Call Newspapers he was conveying others’ comments.
"I would be glad to discuss any of these experiences with any committee or any of you," Sturm told aldermen last week, however, he may have legal counsel present before he goes before the sign commission again. He was not present at the March sign commission meeting.
The sign commission approved Sturm’s variance for three sheet metal signs at the March 13 meeting, but postponed a decision on the window signage until April.
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One commission member called the window signs 'garish.' But the concern of most commission members is that the signage, which takes up more than 25 percent of the total window, is against current code. Guitar Center, the only other business to have requested this type of variance, was told signs had to be kept a few inches behind the glass.
Approving Sturm’s request would likely set a precedent for other businesses.
Commission member Julie Wright suggested Sturm could make the signs smaller to fit within code. Another option is to remove the current signs from inside the plexiglass and move them back off the window sill—which would likely cost Sturm additional money.
Commission member Greg Paluczak said Sturm could have avoided additional costs if he’d come to the commission earlier.
“He got self into the situation and it’s not our job to bail him out,” Paluczak said. “If you paint your building green with pink polka dots and maybe that’s against the code, should we approve it because you already did it?”
The consensus from commission members was that Sturm was not interested in working with them to meet a compromise. However, Sturm risks losing his conditional use permit to rent UHaul trucks on the property if his signs don't conform to city code.
Mayor Jeff Schlink said most concerns he hears from business owners are sign-related.
In response to Sturm's and Wiseman's comments that they've felt harassed, he said commission members are doing their job to enforce the city code.