Business Fights for Full Color

BAR Reviews Sno-Cone Stand

A Pelican SnoBalls stand in Forest Acres, similar to what franchise owners are looking to bring to Blythewood.

A Pelican SnoBalls stand in Forest Acres, similar to what franchise owners are looking to bring to Blythewood.

BLYTHEWOOD (Sept. 29, 2016) – Bryan Keller, owner of ice specialty stores in Elgin and Columbia, appeared before the Board of Architectural Review on Sept. 19 to find out if Board members would approve the use of several different bright colors on the exterior of a building the franchise hopes to rent on Wilson Boulevard near the intersection of Rimer Pond Road.

Keller said he had been discouraged last year by Town Hall zoning officials from trying to open a Pelican’s SnoBalls franchise in downtown Blythewood because of the company’s required bright purple, pink and blue building colors.

Town Administrator Gary Parker explained that the colors weren’t the only problem, that the business would also require a zoning change to at least Multi-Neighborhood Commercial (MC) if it locates on the Wilson Boulevard property. Several residents from nearby Rimer Pond Road who oppose commercial zoning in the area were in attendance.

“It was made clear to us that the location in downtown was not going to happen,” Keller told the Board. “So we’ve expanded our search (for a building).”

Keller said he’s considering the former 3-G Windows and Doors building that was renovated about five years ago. The building is located at 10713 Wilson Blvd.

BAR members, who are charged with safeguarding the town’s aesthetics, took a collective deep breath when Keller passed around photos of the proposed color options.

“The 3-G building has a very nice renovation,” Board member David Shand pointed out, “and I think your color scheme would take away from the look.”

After much discussion about the colors which all concerned, including the Pelican representatives, agreed were garish, Matt Marcom, the Pelican SnoBalls franchise representative, weighed in.

“There is some flexibility with the color. We can’t change the color scheme, but we can change where the colors go, the amount of color and saturation levels. So if we can compromise, the color combination makes up our trade dress. It’s meant to stand out,” Marcom said about the bright colors. “I think it’s good looking.”

“The town’s requirements say unusual or attention-grabbing colors are not permitted,” Chairman Gale Coston said, reading from the ordinance.

“But it’s supposed to be (attention grabbing),” Marcom said. “Could we get a variance?”

“We worked for two and a half years with Hardees to get the colors right,” Coston said. “For us to make an exception like this would be defenseless.”

“But this is not in the Town Center,” Keller countered. “It is in an area where the rules are more relaxed. It’s not on Blythewood Road. It’s next to a farm.”

After Keller was reminded by a Board member that, “Some of us live on farms,” another Board member, Jim McLean, added, “It is the gateway to the town and the entrance to Rimer Pond Road. I don’t think this Board can maintain its continuity and approve these colors.”

With that, Marcom backed down, suggesting he could possibly get approval (from his company) for a white building with only brightly colored trim work, wall menus and signage.

“I understand. What you’re trying to prevent is what we’re trying to bring in,” Marcom said.

Coston agreed that some compromise was possible and suggested Keller schedule a formal presentation to the Board outlining their plans, including landscape, lighting and parking lot paving for the Board to review. But McLean suggested Keller might want to be sure he could get the zoning before going to the trouble of preparing a presentation for the BAR.

Asked by Keller if he thought the Town would agree to rezone the property from its current Multi-Neighborhood Office (MO) designation to Multi-Neighborhood Commercial (MC) designation, Parker said that would be up to Council.

The properties on all sides of the 3-G property are currently zoned Rural (RU). Dawson’s Pond, a residential neighborhood, borders the back side of the property.

Asked if he wanted to speak to the issue, Michael Watts said he and other Rimer Pond Road neighbors in attendance shared the Board’s concerns about the colors.

“But our biggest concern is up-zoning the property to a commercial designation that will lead to even more up-zoning. We’re opposed to commercial zoning in this area,” Watts said.

The next Board of Architectural Review is Oct. 17.