Bank’s sign plan scrapped by board

JOHNSTOWN – The city Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously rejected the new Berkshire Bank’s application for a special permit to allow a second, larger sign on the side of its building, saying it might hurt the historical integrity of the structure.

The building at Main and Market streets, built in 1927, was recently taken over by Massachusetts-based Berkshire Bank. There is an existing sign, but the company applied to the city for another sign to go on the west side of the building. The company – serviced by Agnoli Sign Co. of Springfield, Mass. – needed a special permit.

“[The building] is in the historic preservation overlay district,” said board Chairman Peter K. Smith.

He said any architectural and design changes in the district require approval by the Planning Board.

Agnoli representative Christina Moreau told the board during Tuesday’s public hearing on Berkshire Bank’s application the sign needed for the side of the building was designed multiple ways. She showed two versions, including one in which two existing windows would be blackened out.

“They lowered the sign so that it wouldn’t touch anything and would be affixed to the brick,” Moreau stated.

But board member Terri Easterly said, “I think it’s just overkill having [the second sign] on the side.”

Assistant Fire Chief Michael Heberer said he didn’t believe either of Berkshire’s design plans fit the historic district.

“We’re trying to keep the building as historic as possible,” said board member Chandra Cotter, the city engineer.

Smith said the existing sign is visible from all angles, but Moreau argued that trees will obscure it during the summer.

“Some of us are concerned about the architectural integrity of the building,” Smith stated.

City Historian Noel Levee also told the board, “I think the signage takes away from the character of the building.”

Moreau asked how Johnstown Restaurant Supply is allowed to have a long green sign along the top of its West Main Street building.

“Most of these signs predate this code,” Heberer responded.

Smith said the “damage was done” with downtown Johnstown signage in the 1950s that wouldn’t quite fit today.

“I think there were a lot of facades that were considered aggressive and appropriate [back then],” he said.