2013-08-01 / General Stories

St. James Church Sign Must Come Down


A controversial sign erected outside St. James Church will be coming down. 
ERIC GROSS A controversial sign erected outside St. James Church will be coming down. ERIC GROSS A large illuminated sign erected in front of St. James Church on Gleneida Avenue in downtown Carmel will be coming down.

The Carmel Zoning Board made that decision last week following a public hearing during which a half dozen residents spoke out in opposition of the signage.

The Rev. Anthony Sorgie, pastor of St. James, told the board that the sign had been installed to not only announce events of the church but the community as well: “In case of an emergency situation, our sign would advise the public of the latest information related to the crisis.”

Neither board members nor the public accepted the explanation.

One man feared that other houses of worship and businesses would be next to install the electronic signs. “Should this be permitted to happen, over time Gleneida Avenue will resemble an arcade. The ZBA must take the step to stop the spread of electronic signs,” he said.

ZBA Chairman Mark Fraser explained that under state statute “zoning boards are semi-judicial and are not legislative. Based on the criteria provided by the state, the church was not worthy of receiving a special variance needed to erect the sign. To me the sign was out of character to the neighborhood.

A variance was needed because the sign was double the size of what our town code allows. Where does the church go from here? It can either remove the sign or challenge our decision in a court of law.”

During the 45-minute hearing, a resident brought up the electronic sign installed last year outside Temple Beth Shalom on Route 6 in Mahopac.

Fraser said the board allowed the synagogue to erect its sign since it was “much smaller. The key to our board’s denying the variance request for St. James was that the electronic message board doubled the size of the sign allowed by town code.”

Attempts to reach Father Sorgie for additional comment have been unsuccessful since his office advised the priest was “out of town” for the next week.

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