100-foot high sign proposed on Phenix Ave. near 295

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Fred Joslyn Jr. doesn’t want to see a 672-square-foot sign when he drives out of his neighborhood. But that’s what he thinks he’ll have to deal with if a proposal by CubeSmart, a new storage space warehouse being built on Phenix Ave., is accepted by the Planning Commission at their meeting next Tuesday night.

The sign, which Joslyn said he found out about through a legal advertisement in the Herald, would be digital and sit on 100-foot high pylons next to the building, which is located on Phenix Ave., to the right of the end of Route 37, towards the ice rink. Joslyn said he thinks the sign would be digital, but be a static message and would only advertise for CubeSmart itself.

Planning Commission Chairman Michael Smith said that the proposal had been “mentioned before,” but this was the first time it was part of any formal proposal. He said the Cranston stretch of Route 295 doesn’t have any commercial signs visible on Cranston property, and nothing like this has been approved in his 10 years on the commission.

He added, however, that he “never pre-judges anything” and would have to hear from both the petitioner and members of the public at the meeting next week before forming an opinion on this proposal.

Planning Director Jason Pezzullo also said he hadn’t formed a recommendation one way or another on it, but would be doing so sometime later this week before the meeting. He said that CubeSmart is asking for a zone variance that allows for more signage on their site.

“They’re asking specifically for a billboard that’s visible from 295,” Pezzullo said. “I haven’t completed my whole analysis on it, but it’s not something that’s very common…We have to be careful about how we recommend on these because they have consequences not just for this project, but other projects as well. We have to look at the long-range implications.’

Smith also said that if they were to potentially recommend favorably on the proposal, it could be likely that they include a caveat saying that CubeSmart cannot advertise any off-premise companies on the sign, as that has always been the rule in the past.

The building is in a prime position for a sign, as drivers on Route 295 and Route 37 would be able to see it, so long as it is built high enough and wide enough to be above the trees there, though it would be easier in the winter when the leaves are gone.

But Joslyn thinks that a sign of this nature is incongruent with the city of Cranston and should be denied by the Planning Commission.

“This monstrosity falls well outside ordinance and the realm of being reasonable,” he said about the proposed sign. “It’s an invasion of the aesthetics of the area. I’m going to be looking out in the wintertime, when all the trees lose leaves, at a pseudo-UFO in the sky. It’s completely out of character with the neighborhood.”

Joslyn did say that he’s happy that CubeSmart is in that location, rather than any sort of housing development that had been brought before the City Council, but having this sign put in there would be “an insult to the environment” because of all the wooded area around it.

Joslyn also said that the only place in the city with a similar sign is at the Brewed Awakenings on Pontiac Ave., and that sign is only allowed because it was “grand fathered in” from the previous gas station that was there.

“The legal basis for that sign is totally different than the CubeSmart sign,” Joslyn said. “If the city caves in on this thing, any part of the city will be exposed to a sign like this, which would be a further intrusion on people and neighborhoods.”

Smith said that someone has to create an ordinance at some point that will address signs in general, and LED or digital signs specifically, as he said that more and more companies are asking for those to be put up because that is “the technology today.”

“The commission has been very reluctant in the past to move too deeply into that [sign proposals] until we’re able to develop an ordinance that would go to the City Council for their consideration one way or another,” he said. “I hope we can tackle the signage question before too long because that is one issue that comes up time and time again.”

The Planning Commission meeting is on Tuesday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m.

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