Does this neon sign belong in Rindge?
Diner owner seeks two variances for size, illumination
Hometown Diner sign is placed on the ground in Ottawa in preparation to be moved to New Hampshire. Tim Halliday, the new owner of the diner, expects to move it out of Ottawa on Tuesday. It will be traveling more than 700 miles from Locust and East 11th streets to Rindge, N.H. He said his town is a small college town of 4,500 with a lot of lakes.
Hometown Diner in Ottawa, Ohio is on its way to Rindge this week. The 1940s Silk City vintage diner is expected to open this fall near Edward Jones Investments at the intersection of routes 119 and 202.
RINDGE — For nearly 70 years, a red, internally illuminated “Diner” sign has graced the front of a 1947 Silk City vintage diner from Ottawa, Ohio, that was recently moved to Rindge. Now, the town’s Zoning Board will have to decide if the sign, along with its newer companion, “Hometown,” will have a home in Rindge.
Five years ago the town went to court over an off-premise business sign dispute, and at the time Tim Halliday was serving on the Select Board. Now, Halliday is himself seeking two variances for two neon signs totaling 60 square feet, and hoping the ZBA will understand the importance of an illuminated vintage sign to the authenticity of his diner. Currently, a business sign in the Commercial Gateway District is restricted to 32 square feet and, with a second sign at the same location, may not exceed 48 square feet; glass-tube illumination is not permitted.
To be forbidden to attach the sign to the diner because it doesn’t meet zoning regulations would diminish the cultural and historic nature of the structure, Halliday said in a phone interview Monday.
“This is not a big box store,” Halliday said of his Hometown Diner, which is slated to open in early September. “It has a soul and a small town feel.”
Halliday filed an application for two variances with the Zoning Board in early July, and is on the agenda for the Aug. 27 meeting when town officials will discuss his application and consider public input. Halliday chose to delay the public hearing after just four members of the Zoning Board showed up to the July 23 meeting. “I wanted to increase my odds of getting this approved,” Halliday said.
The two signs — one of which reads, “Diner,” and the second of which reads, “Hometown” — that Halliday wants to attach to his vintage diner measure 60 square feet in total. Halliday needs a variance to have signs that total that size and a second variance to allow for internal illumination, he said.
The neon “Diner” sign has been with the diner from the beginning, Halliday said, while the “Hometown” sign may have been custom built for the former Hometown Diner in Ottawa.
“The way the sign ordinance reads, you have to form a rectangle around the sign at its highest point,” he said, referring to how the ordinance directs one to measure the sign . “I think the formula is flawed because the actual square footage [of the two signs together] is 48 square feet.”
Code Enforcement Officer Dave DuVernay could not be reached for comment by press time to comment on the ordinance. ZBA Chair Dave Drouin declined to comment on Halliday’s application.
Halliday said he is in communication with the National Register of Historic Places about adding the Hometown Diner to the database, which includes a list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Without the “Diner” sign, he said he fears his application with the registry may be rejected.
The Hometown Diner’s former owner, Matt Kaplanow, had the historic structure restored by Steve Harwin, a Cleveland-based diner restorer just a few years ago. After years of searching for the perfect vintage diner, Halliday had it brought to Rindge by tractor-trailer truck. The diner’s new home is at one of the four-corners formed by the intersection of routes 119 and 202.
Construction is ongoing at the site. Halliday has constructed a kitchen addition that is 41 by 24 square feet, and additional space for bathrooms that are handicap accessible. Halliday said he is also adding room in the back of the diner to hold three to four additional tables.
While Halliday said he has reached a lease agreement with a Rindge resident who will be operating the diner, he is withholding her name for now. “We’ll probably go public this week,” he said. “She’s extremely excited and has a lot of good ideas.”
Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.