A need for advertisement prompted the Corner Slice to install a 15-foot "open" flag on the property at a key intersection in Gilmanton. On Monday, this smaller version of the flag adorned the business. The pizza restaurant and gas station is located in Gilmanton's historic district. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)
Gilmanton business faces historic district review after having to remove large banner saying store is open
By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — A 15-foot flag with the word "open" on it has been taken down at the Corner Slice, a business that faced a host of regulatory hurdles before it opened last summer. Now, the freestanding "open" banner is at the center of a discussion about historic district regulations of businesses.
The Corner Slice restaurant and gas station, open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., is a place celebrated for its pizza and subs. A freestanding vertical flag with the word "open" on it once attracted customers from nearby Route 140 and Route 107, but town staff told owners Henry and Rachel Vigeant to take it down.
"They have to either meet general guidelines or ... get a variance to meet the zoning ordinance. Large signs — and by large I mean bigger than 9 square feet — are only allowed in the business district," said Annette Andreozzi, land use administrator for Gilmanton.
"These 'open' flags are kind of a conundrum in the historic district," Andreozzi said. "They're really not a problem in the business district because most of them meet the size of signs, and they're really not concerned about flags under the zoning ordinances, but in the historic district we need to clarify that."
Andreozzi said the Corner Slice "was trying to do something that didn't fit into the rules," prompting review by the Gilmanton Historic District Commission. At a meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, the commission is scheduled to conduct two discussions, one with the proprietor of the Corner Slice and the other among commission members for "possible clarification of sign regulation," according to the agenda.
On Monday, a small "open" flag dangled outside the Corner Slice.
Rachel Vigeant said the larger 15-foot flag was up for about two weeks before she and her husband took it down.
"This building has a lot of history, and we're really trying to keep it alive here," Rachel Vigeant said.
Noting decorations and a "rustic feel" that the business has embraced, Vigeant said, "We definitely support the history of this building."
According to Gilmanton's historic district ordinance, "All signs visible from the exterior must have HDC approval. Signs shall not exceed 9 square feet. Signs placed on the exterior of the building or on the grounds shall be made of painted wood and shall be designed and hung in a manner appropriate to the buildings or grounds involved. Because of the exceptional unity of architectural design present in Gilmanton, it shall be the duty of the Commission to protect this unity by requiring that all exterior changes, additions, new construction, and land usage conform as much as possible to the standards set forth below. These regulations cannot possibly cover all possible proposed changes. Unique situations will have to be evaluated by the Commission on a case-by-case basis."
The ordinance does not mention flags or banners.
The historic district includes property in the Corners, from where Route 140 and Route 107 meet, reaching 400 feet on either side of both roads. "It's like a big cross," Andreozzi said.
The Corner Slice banner was not attached to the building but freestanding on the property, according to the business.
This is not the first time the Vigeants have faced regulatory challenges.
The Corner Slice sought a change-of-use from convenience store to restaurant when the Vigeants acquired the property at 518 Province Road. During months of permitting, Henry Vigeant said zoning approval posed particularly frustrating challenges, according to press accounts at the time. A drawn-out state septic design review also delayed the Corner Slice's opening until a grand opening in August 2016, according to press accounts.
Formerly the Corner Store, the building functioned for an estimated 60 years as a hub for the community. The Corner Store closed in 2015.
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