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Negotiation on SuperTarget signs goes sour

Target plans to go ahead and put up 300 square feet of wall signs and maintain a 40-foot-tall pylon sign.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 27, 2002

MEADOW POINTE -- The saga of the SuperTarget sign seems to have reached an end that will please neither the store owners nor Wesley Chapel residents.

The soon-to-open store on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and County Line Road offered neighbors a tradeoff: Let us double the size of our wall signs and we'll take down a 40-foot-tall pylon sign.

At a Thursday meeting of the Pasco County Development Review Committee, with accusations of blackmail and bad faith in the air, Target officials left the Historic Courthouse in Dade City vowing the deal was dead.

"They're going to have to live for the next 40 years with the sign they don't want," Target spokesman Todd Pressman said of the 40-foot sign neighbors had complained was an eyesore.

SuperTarget had wanted a variance to rules that limit wall signs to 300 square feet. To get neighbors to agree to 656 square feet of wall signs, Target offered to remove the pylon sign in favor of a 15-foot-tall masonry sign.

But after hearing criticism from the Meadow Pointe neighborhood, whose entrance is across from the store, the committee agreed to a wall sign of only 460 square feet in exchange for removing the pylon sign.

Borrowing a phrase from Meadow Pointe neighbors, committee member Mike Nurrenbrock said Target appeared to be using the pylon sign to "blackmail" neighbors into letting it beef up wall signs.

Nurrenbrock wondered why the store needed 656 square feet of wall signs when it requested 460 square feet during a failed variance request in November. He suggested the size of the building advertised itself.

"That building is like an 800-pound gorilla," he said.

Leaving from opposite ends of the courthouse, Meadow Pointe neighbors and Target officials had entirely different takes on the proceedings.

Neighbors have complained that SuperTarget failed the corporate citizenship test by installing landscaping and signs below the high standards adopted by businesses on the Hillsborough County side of Bruce B. Downs.

A prime example is the Wal-Mart Supercenter about a mile south of SuperTarget that makes do with a small masonry sign.

"I think that was a good compromise," Meadow Pointe resident Dennis Smith said of the committee's decision. "We can live with that."

SuperTarget can't. Pressman said the sign debate, which included two months of wheeling and dealing with neighbors, had reached "the end of the road."

In the end, the only group to ally itself with the store was the leadership at Lakes at Northwood, the community directly behind SuperTarget.

Pressman said Target has no choice but to return to erecting 300 square feet of wall signs and maintaining the pylon sign.

"It was a beautiful partnership of corporate and community interests," Pressman said ruefully before climbing into his white Mercedes for his trip back to Clearwater.

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