SUNBURY — At its first meeting of the year, the Berkshire Township Board of Zoning Appeals allowed the Shell gas station on state Route 37 in Sunbury to keep its current sign.

Berkshire Zoning Inspector David Weade told the BZA on Jan. 18 the township’s Zoning Commission had approved a new development plan of the Shell property. However, “the property originally was developed, and signs erected prior to the establishment of the current code,” the meeting minutes said. “New development must conform to the current code, and the existing sign does not conform.”

This prompted property owner True North Energy LLC to request a conditional use. Rick Turner, of Diamond Z Engineering, spoke on their behalf, saying Shell’s “current sign matches that of the sign for the BP station across the road as far as size and square footage. He argued that a smaller sign would be easy to miss for those driving westbound on the highway (Interstate 71).”

The current sign height is about 30 feet, and the current code maximum is 15 feet.

Weade said if the BP were to rebuild, they too would have to conform to the current code for its signage.

“The changes in the sign code years ago were intended to allow for consistency of signage in the area and to prohibit sign competition and improve the look of the area,” Weade said in the minutes. “He further explained that while he can give background and history, the decision to approve or deny the request is the decision of the board.”

The BZA discussed the appropriateness of “making an exception in this case.” It was noted, though, “that each decision the board makes is independent, and one decision does not set precedent,” the minutes read. “Being a conditional use, if approved it will not automatically pass to subsequent owners.”

There was no public participation. The application was approved by a 3-2 vote. At the end of June, the sign remained intact, but the old station was razed, and a new station will be built on the same site.

Also on Jan. 18, a resident in Cheshire Woods was granted a 3-foot variance to build a deck in his backyard. The next BZA meeting was on April 19, and in the only matter of new business, a resident of Kerfield Drive in Galena was also granted a rear yard setback for a deck.

The five-member BZA consists of Chair Kim Zianno Hartman, Vice Chair James Spurrier, Bruce Denton, Dorothy Kerr, and new member Scott Lillie. Ellen Ebe is the alternate.

The township website said, “The Board of Zoning Appeals meetings are held as needed, typically the third Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. … at the Berkshire Township Hall,” 1454 Rome Corners Road, Galena.

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at [email protected].