The Conroe City Council sent a Houston-based sign company back to the drawing board after its client requested a variance to install a large sign along Interstate 45 to give the new business better visibility.

In a letter to the Director of Capital Projects and Transportation Tommy Woolley, Nolan Morrison, general manager for American Furniture Warehouse, requested the variance calling the company’s new location in Conroe a “challenged retail landscape.”

“The value an importance of adequate signage is a fundamental component of our business as it allows us to appropriately promote our brand to customers, which continues to be challenging to accomplish in today’s segmented advertising world,” Morrison wrote.

AFW, which has been in business since the 1970s, is developing 30 acres on Interstate 45 south near River Plantation Drive.

Morrison is requesting a large pylon sign with a height of 60 feet, city ordinance only permits 42; increasing the sign area to 700 square feet rather than 225 square feet and a LED display area of 200 square feet which is larger than the 150 square feet as permitted by city ordinance.

Woolley agrees the location is unique.

“This is a unique situation where the land is, it is lower than the freeway,” Woolley said. “The freeway is elevated there at River Plantation.”

While the council was supportive of the sign height but had concerns about the size and the LED display citing safety of drivers as a concern.

“With the elevation of the freeway going up 20 feet, I am willing to make that adjustment,” said Councilman Raymond McDonald.

Mayor Pro Tem Duke Coon said maintaining continuity of signs in the area is key.

“We have a hotel and convention center coming in, we have Sam Houston State University, we have Johnson Development so there is signage in place,” Coon said. “We need to continue to have continuity in my opinion. The height issue makes perfect sense to me but as far as size, we need to have continuity.”

Coon asked Joe Minavi, CEO of Signco American who spoke on behalf of Morrison, to rework the sign design and bring it back to the city for approval.

Despite concerns over the sign design, the city has worked with AFW to ensure their presence in Conroe.

In March 2018, the city council approved 380 agreement approving the deal with American Furniture Warehouse during its regular meeting Thursday.

The agreement allows AFW to earn sales tax rebates up to $6 million over 16 years once the store opens. During a previous council meeting City Attorney Marc Winberry said the rebates kicking in after the company hits $75 million in sales. The city will retain the first $29,167 if sales tax collected each month and AFW will receive a rebate of 36 percent of the remaining monthly collections.

According to the Texas Comptroller website, Chapter 380 of the Local Government Code authorizes municipalities to offer incentives designed to promote economic development such as commercial and retail projects. Specifically, it provides for offering loans and grants of city funds or services at little or no cost to promote state and local economic development and to stimulate business and commercial activity.

The council will meet Dec. 9 for a workshop session followed by a regular council meeting Dec. 10.

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