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Proposed Waffle House, Middletown at odds over large sign near I-75

Last week, the board voted 3-2 to approve a variance to increase the sign height from 10 feet to 50 feet for a proposed Waffle House on Dixie Highway south of Roosevelt Boulevard, but the Middletown Development Code requires four votes to approve a variance. Two members of the seven-member board were absent.

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Planning Director Ashley Combs said she spoke with Waffle House representatives on Monday to schedule a meeting to discuss next steps and whether they will reapply for a sign height variance.

Combs recommended approving the sign variance. The current code only allows a 10-foot-tall monument sign.

In their application, Waffle House representatives said the taller sign was needed as the location was just less than a mile from the Interstate 75/Ohio 122 interchange. There are other tall freestanding signs for restaurants around the interchange/Towne Mall Galleria area, which is near the proposed location, such as for Frisch’s restaurant near the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and Dixie Highway.

“Pulling customers off of l-75 is an essential component to Waffle House being successful in this location,” the application from Waffle House reads. “The Frisch’s Big Boy located in the northeast corner of S. Dixie and Roosevelt is a similar business model, and they too have a freestanding sign of similar height. As there are no other viable opportunities for Waffle House in areas closer to I-75, the 50 ft. tall sign is necessary to get visibility to I-75.”

Waffle House representatives also said there was a hardship for the property due to location and the rising height of Roosevelt Boulevard and said I-75 traffic would be a major part of the restaurant’s success.

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Board members Dan Ward and Todd Moore voted against the variance request as they felt it was beyond the spirit and intent of the Middletown Development Code that was approved in March 2018 and were fearful of setting a precedent if they allowed the taller sign, Combs said.

They also said there was no hardship present to allow for the variance since the visibility issue could be solved by other means such as the blue motorist information at the I-75/Ohio 122 interchange, according to Combs.

She said no one spoke in opposition of the request.

Waffle House had a location at the I-75/Ohio 122 interchange before the property was acquired by the Ohio Department of Transportation for interchange improvements more than a decade ago.

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