Preservation Board rejects digital sign request, saying it would open 'can of worms'

Dec 8, 2017

Regulation of electronic signs and a church's desire to spread its message collided Thursday before the Buffalo Preservation Board.

St. Paul's Cathedral wants to make passersby more aware of what the church does, especially since it has moved into its Flickinger Center at 4 Cathedral Park.

Interim Dean Will Mebane says people walking by do not know what the landmark church is, so he wants a large digital sign on the new headquarters to spread the word and spread news about the community. It would be smaller than the existing sign, which is bigger than allowed, but approved by the Common Council.

"There was a man we hired to come do some videography for us came into the building and he said, 'This is a beautiful structure. Do you guys do services here?' I said, 'Yes, every Sunday, several times, and we do a service here every day at 12:05' and he said, 'Oh, I thought this was a museum.' That caused me to start to think we have a problem," Mebane said.

The site is located in the Joseph EllicottĀ  Historic District and allowing the sign would set a precedent. Preservation Board Member Sam Gurney said he just cannot allow it.

"I'm really sympathetic for what you are trying to do, but for me, acting on this would because this would be changing part of it," Gurney said. "I just think that opens a whole can of worms."

It was suggested that if the sign were allowed, developer Carl Paladino would want similar signs right across the street, on his Ellicott Square Building.

If the church were just a few blocks north - in the Theater District - the flashing and moving digital sign would be allowed. St. Paul's can appeal the decision to the Council.