The Broadway Deli has become quite the soup and sandwich hot spot in the heart of Lancaster’s central historic business district since it opened eight years ago.
It also has become quite a magnet for heated debate in village circles. Sparring has intensified over the deli’s 4-by-8-foot portable trailer sign in front of the business along Broadway – a large sign that village officials say violates sign regulations in the historic district and also is at odds with New York’s State Historic Preservation Office’s guidelines.
This time, deli owner Michelle Thuerck is on the hot seat. She’s ordered to appear tonight before Village Justice Daniel E. Rinow, after two citations from the village asking her to remove the sign have gone unheeded. Whatever happens, she hopes she’ll be allowed by the court to keep the sign up through the holiday season, and in the meantime, she is pitching an idea for a different sign that she hopes will be acceptable to the village.
There’s also an ironic twist, and some mixed messages, at play. About a year ago, it was village officials, Thuerck said, who asked her to bring her sign back out to help advertise village’s popular Christmasville celebration and holiday events – which she did. But she hasn’t removed the sign, as the village required her to by last Jan. 31.
Regardless, village code enforcement officer Ryan McNichol has run out of patience. He said the deli sign, with a white backing and black lettering, is clearly at odds with village sign regulations and state historic preservation standards, which could jeopardize future historic district grants.
“It’s been an ongoing issue, and the Historic Preservation Commission has been more than accommodating,” McNichol said.
“All we want is for her to remove her sign and put something up meeting state historic preservation standards. We can’t give her a different privilege from other village businesses.”
Thuerck is torn. When interviewed Monday, she at first, said: “It’s all been kind of smoothed over, so everything is good.”
But as she talked, she acknowledged she’s probably stretched keeping it up far longer than she should have.
The deli has owned the sign for probably close to six years, and Thuerck insisted the village never indicated that she needed any special permits until it began cracking down.
“It’s been a very good sign for us. It definitely has driven my business,” she said.
But the special rules of the historic business district for freestanding signs are strict – stipulating the distance they must be from an adjacent business, whether they are out of scale with the property itself and whether they are compatible with other conforming signage in the district. Plus, there’s the issue of it being potentially backlit.
“It’s just not appropriate for the district and not compatible with what we’re looking for,” said Michael Meyer, chairman of the village Historic Preservation Commission. “We fought that battle and won before, and then it’s back in play, and she advertises on it.”
Meyer said he hopes a resolution can be reached with an alternative sign that Thuerck proposed to the commission last week that involves the fence bordering an adjacent property. “It certainly is moving in the right direction,” he said.
Mayor Paul Maute acknowledged the village’s use of the portable deli sign to advertise special events is hypocritical. “The signage in the village is just out of control,” he said. “There are all kinds of questions throughout the village about signs.”