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August 12, 2011 - 1:09am

Planning board approves destruction of Elks Lodge, disapproves sign painted by local artist

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Art and culture clashed with reality Thursday night at the Genesee County Planning Board meeting when two projects dealing with a bit of Batavia's past and a bit of its present were considered.

First up was a permit for demolition of the former Elks Lodge at 213 E. Main St. The board recommended approval of the permit with only one dissenting vote, from Lucine Kauffman.

Later in the meeting, the board was asked to consider a permit for sign painted on the back of a building on East Main Street.

While some might dispute that the sign is a work of art, it was painted by Batavia's renowned muralist Vinny DelPlato.

Main St. Pizza Company Owner Vic Marchese commissioned the work to provide DelPlato some extra work while the artist was in town this summer and he thought it would be a cool use of some blank space on the back of his building.

Only after the mural/sign was painted -- it depicts the top of Main St.'s pizza box -- did city officials let him know the painting constituted a sign for his business and he would need a sign permit.

The sign also allegedly violated city ordinances for size and location.

Last month, the county planning board recommended disapproval of an application for a variance to allow the sign. 

The board's votes are not binding. They're recommendations to the municipal planning and zoning boards.  

In the case of the Main St. sign, the application was resubmitted, according to board discussion, because the Batavia planning board agreed to consider it if a sign for Batavia Computer was added to the back of the building.

The Main St. painting isn't actually behind Main St. Pizza. It's behind Batavia Computer, and the owner of Batavia Computer said he thinks the location of the painting will confuse people about the location of his business, according to board discussion.

"It seems like this is a neighbor issue, but we're being asked to straighten it out," Kauffman said.

The revised plan leaves the painting in place, but ads door signs for both Main St. Pizza and Batavia Computer. The board seemed willing to consider a sign variance for Batavia Computer, but only as a separate application.

"We don't even know if the owner of Batavia Computer wants the sign," said board member Bob Bennett. "We have nothing with his signature on it."

Felipe Oltramari, senior planner for the county, said that part of the reason for the staff's recommendation to disapprove the application was that allowing such a large sign would set a precedent.

"How would the city say no to the next application?" Oltramari asked.

Kauffman noted that the point of a variance is to make an exception, not set a precedent.

The board held no discussion of the proposed demolition of the former Elks Lodge. A representative of UMMC and of the demolition company appeared at the meeting and were ready to answer questions, but no questions were asked.

In briefing Oltramari said there is no documented historical significance of the building.

County planning staff recommended approval of the demolition permit.

After the meeting, Oltramari shared a draft of a modification to the building that was approved in 1950. The modification added the current facade of the building. In our earlier report, we said that Frank Homelius designed the facade -- information that comes from a book about Frank and his father Henry Homelius. However, Frank died in 1941.

Photo: Taken the day DelPlato was finishing the Main St. painting.

Lisa Falkowski
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Nonsense - It's that big a deal for a sign at Main Street? A sin that a local landmark is being torn down. I don't want to hear the "too expensive to renovate" line. The plans are for a parking lot. That excuse doesn't gel. :(
Howard B. Owens
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The plans are for landscaping, not a parking lot.
Gary Spencer
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reminds me of this old diddy:
Gary Spencer
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Howard B. Owens
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The Kinks (one of my all-time favorite bands) are pretty much the only rock and ball band to consistently oppose urban renewal. One of their greatest -- and most under appreciated -- albums came out in 1971, Muswell Hillbillies. It's a concept album with a strong libertarian message and a rather reactionary view of progress for progress's sake. Here's their great anti-urban renewal anthem, "Here Come the People in Grey."
Lisa Falkowski
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Howard, My apologies about the parking lot, but that was what I read. Regardless, it doesn't gel with the "can't afford to renovate" song n dance. Thanks for the clarification.
Paul Weiss
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The Elks Lodge was a Main Street property that will now be taken off the tax rolls. How sad.
Mark Potwora
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Paul you are so right...Just more city land off the tax rolls ...Non-profits will be the downfall of this city....The one Guy who is trying to do business on Main St..is hassled about a sign...He would be better off to call it Graffiti ,then he could leave it up..I have noticed Graffiti on a few buildings and no one is forcing those owners to get that off their buildings..
George Richardson
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Howard, you recorded history before the people in the wrong could paint over it. That is your right and their wrong, but why are they almost always wrong? Am I right? Hell yeah and they're wrong, unless I am; again. But that's my right, right?

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