Royal Palm Council Denies Sign Variance For Business On SR 7

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council.

On Thursday, Aug. 18, the Royal Palm Beach Village Council took up a delayed discussion regarding a sign variance for the City Mattress store on State Road 7, deciding in the end not to allow the already existing, nonconforming sign.

Also discussed at the meeting were concerns about traffic near H.L. Johnson Elementary School and the split sale of a remnant piece of village-owned land along Seminole Palms Drive that was divided among two local businesses.

Regarding the City Mattress sign, agent Glen Welden returned to the council after last month’s postponement due to technical difficulties with his complete presentation in hand.

The request for a sign variance for City Mattress, located at 390 S. State Road 7, started over a year ago when Welden’s company contacted village staff. It led to the manufacture of two different sized signs, one that complied with village code at 90 square feet, and another that reflected the variance request. Unfortunately, the larger sign was installed before the variance was officially approved.

“City Mattress has a nationally registered logo. The red square is part of the trademark. City Mattress has the same basic façade area as Michaels and a little bit smaller than T.J. Maxx,” explained Welden, referring to the store’s two neighbors. “City Mattress gets a very small, diminished sign based on the code. The T.J. Maxx sign is 5-foot-3-inches tall. Michaels’ sign is 5-foot-6-inches. To conform with code, that would make the City Mattress sign only 2-feet-10-inches tall.”

The requested variance would allow the letters to be 4-foot-3-inches tall on the City Mattress sign.

At issue is that the code calculates the allowed signage based on the length of store frontage. T.J. Maxx has 186 feet of frontage, and Michaels has 106 feet of store front. City Mattress has only 90 feet.

“My concern is the variance. Mostly, you’re using Michaels and T.J. Maxx as comparisons, but they have bigger space,” Vice Mayor Selena Samios said. “I’ve been in your store; I was able to find it. I’m for denial.”

Village Manager Ray Liggins also made it clear that the code was set with the intention that people could see and read the sign from the parking lot, not from State Road 7. The shopping center is set 567 feet back from the major roadway.

Mayor Fred Pinto was also concerned with the existing sign.

“I think you see where this is heading,” he said. “You did make a compelling argument, but at the end of the day, giving these kinds of variances is something that we really try not to do. You give one a variance, and people line up, and then what’s the point of having a code if you’re not going to follow it?”

After Pinto’s comment, a motion passed unanimously to deny the City Mattress request.

In other business:

• The council heard an update on the village’s new land use designation. A second reading and adoption of the new land use designation for Mixed-Use Social Center (MXS) was held and approved on a 4-1 vote, with Samios dissenting.

A text amendment from the first reading was also included, raising the floor-to-area ratio (FAR) for structured parking from 0.59 to 0.65. While this raises the maximum FAR from 1.2 to 1.3, the floor plan footprint will remain the same, and it allows for upward expansion for the developer, without the need for a variance.

• Regarding the property at 6846 Seminole Palms Drive, the council approved the parcel be split in half and sold to the property owners on each side. Artemis Investments LLC purchased the east portion, and AMG Business Enterprises LLC the western part. The eastern section will be used as additional parking for the school next door, and the western portion will become outdoor storage. The council was assured that all village codes would be followed for any development.

• After appearing in front of the council at the July meeting, Danielle Underwood returned to provide an update on her concerns over the intersection of Sevilla Avenue and Ponce de Leon Street near H.L. Johnson Elementary School.

The school is now in session, and with the nearby park closed to cars, she has found her neighborhood streets impassible with parents and children in the morning and afternoons.

“I’ve contacted code enforcement and was told there is nothing they can do,” Underwood said. “The road is obstructed. I’ve contacted the PBSO, and they don’t have the funds to send anyone out there. It’s going to be a tragedy. A kid is going to be hurt, and you are going to hear about it.”

Liggins responded that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the situation, and there is not a funding shortage that he knows of. He assured the council and Underwood that the captain is aware and very focused on the situation.

“This is 100-percent related to H.L. Johnson. The first two weeks is always our worst. There are new students, new parents, new teachers, so it always takes longer to get the children in the right car. The process right now is going very slowly,” Liggins said. “The line takes half an hour to 45 minutes. The line pushes everyone into the neighborhood. The goal is to get the drop-off and pick-up as efficient as possible, and it will get better.”

• The meeting concluded with the appointment of members to the village’s Education Advisory Board. Nancy Pennea was moved from an alternate to a regular seat with a term ending in March 2023. Meghan Crosby and Alma Henry-Morman were also appointed to regular seats ending in March 2023. The alternate seat that would serve until March 2024 is currently vacant.

Meanwhile, at the Planning & Zoning Commission, Kara Cowser was appointed to the vacant alternate seat, which serves through March 2025.