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YMCA seeks variance for larger sign in search of 'better visibility'
The J.A. Walters YMCA is requesting a variance to allow a sign about twice as big as usually allowed because of how far back the building is from busy Ga. 365.

The J.A. Walters Family YMCA is seeking a variance to allow a digital sign roughly twice the size allowed in the city of Gainesville because of its position in relation to Ga. 365/U.S. 23.

Amy Kienle, president and CEO of the Georgia Mountains YMCA, said the YMCA’s current sign at the Howard Road location is “very difficult to see” when driving by. She said the easement is elevated 100 feet above the busy Ga. 365, and the building also is not right beside the major thoroughfare. She said the variance would give the YMCA’s potential new sign “better visibility on the highway.”

“Our mission is to help people reach their potential,” Kienle said. “It’s hard to do that when they don’t know we’re here.”

The city allows a maximum of a 120-square-feet overall sign size and an 80-square-foot sign face with a 20-square-foot message center in it, with a maximum allowed height of 10 feet.

The YMCA’s variance request seeks permission for a 243.75-square-foot overall sign size and 152-square-foot sign face with a 38.1-square-foot message center, with a sign height of 12 feet 6 inches.

The nonprofit organization’s request will be heard at the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board’s Aug. 9 meeting.

“The distance that this facility sets back from (Ga.) 365 creates a situation where the allowable sign size permitted is not adequate to effectively identify the YMCA facility and to communicate the services offered with the 20-square-foot message center display that is allowed,” the variance application reads.

It also says “the speed at which vehicles pass the property requires that the signage be larger in order to be identified and read effectively.”

The YMCA’s current temporary sign is 8 feet tall and 16 feet wide.

“A well-done and properly sized sign display will have a positive effect on the area and will promote greater travel safety by being easier to identify and read,” the variance request said.

Matt Tate, Gainesville planning manager, said city staff is in the middle of studying the request and will issue recommendation around Aug. 2, a week before the meeting.

Tate said the property is “a little unusual” due to the wide median on Ga. 365 and the building’s distance from the main road.

“We have to look at all surrounding conditions and take into consideration if there’s an actual physical hardship with the property,” Tate said.

The area is growing quickly, with a RaceTrac gas station across Ga. 365 and Lanier Tech moving its main campus to a nearby property with a scheduled opening in the fall of 2018.

YMCA sign rendering
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