A West Chester auto dealer wants to split with the township the costs of two electronic signs near Interstate 75 and allow community messaging in addition to advertising for the business.
Mercedes-Benz of West Chester wants to enter into a public-private partnership for a two electronic reader boards just south of the Union Centre Boulevard interchange.
Each high-definition LED board would be 14 feet high and 48 feet wide and be installed on the side of a 50-foot high pole with an oval “West Chester Township, Ohio” logo mounted beneath the board.
The cost to erect both structures and install both boards on an open parcel between the dealership and I-75 is estimated at approximately $730,000, said Peter Boesen, managing partner of the dealership.
Mercedes-Benz of West Chester is asking the township for a 50-50 split of the installation costs, Boesen said.
“It’s not something normal that a dealership our size would spend that kind of money on a sign,” he said. “This is way over and above what we would typically spend, but I think it’s something that’s important not only to us, but the community. We’ve got to revitalize the traffic that’s going on up and down our area to stop these people from leaving the strip malls.”
Trustee Vice President George Lang, who said he loves the look, style and feel of the sign, said the township would first need to work through potential zoning issues and the possibility of funding before making any decision regarding splitting the cost of the sign with the dealership.
“Is it a wise use of taxpayer funds, and if the answer is yes, where do we get the money from?” he said. “I don’t have a preconceived answer to any of those, but these are the kind of issues we’re going to have work through before we can proceed, in my opinion.”
Administrator Judi Boyko said the only way the sign could be an eligible TIF expense would be if more than half the slides displayed on it are dedicated solely to township events or township-registered copy.
“It is quite a complicated matter,” said Trustee Lee Wong. “We’ll see what we can do.”
Boesen said he and partner Steve Zubieta and majority partner David Peterson purchased the dealership in March.
“Once we got here we realized one that was missing was a little traffic,” Boesen said. “Typically, a dealership would have a lot of walk-in traffic, and this one didn’t after we got settled in.”
The business partners starting investigating the neighborhood to see what was going on and “quickly realized there’s a lot of traffic missing from a lot of businesses around this neighborhood,” much of it diverted to Liberty Center, he said.
Constructing the electronic reader boards would not only market the dealership, but “more importantly, to market the community,” Boesen said.
Having the boards face both directions would maximize the view both ways and attract potential motorists heading north to visit business on both sides of the interchange before passing the exit, he said.
An IKEA sign just south of the dealership and Allen Road is 85 feet high “but doesn’t really grab your attention,” Boesen said. Done properly, the Mercedes-Benz electronic reader board could set off area buildings nicely and not be an eyesore, he said.
The sign would not only market the dealership and West Chester Twp., in general, but also specifically play up community events such as Friday night high school football, concerts, festivals, farmers markets and holiday events like a Christmas walk, Boesen said.
“Make it a real community board that is embraced and shared by the community bringing people in to West Chester,” he said.
Peterson said a static sign advertising the dealership on an ongoing basis eventually “becomes invisible” to passing motorists.
“Signs like this lose their utility if they only provide one focus,” he said. “If the focus of this sign is only about the dealership, within a certain amount of time … it will fade into the landscape… It is mandatory, if you’re going to do this, that the sign actually provide community service.”
The boards appears to be “the fastest and most certain way” of the dealership getting its message out while also quickening the pace of interest level in the township.
“We bring a little different perception perhaps to your hometown, but we think you’ve got more to offer than maybe has been recognized and appreciated by some of the people who are passing your exit,” he said.
Trustees have not yet scheduled a date on which to discuss or decide the matter.
A rezoning request for the property from Central Business District to Commercial Planned Use Development is scheduled to be heard during West Chester Zoning Commission’s Nov. 21 meeting.