By Rosemary K. Otzman
A variance request for a sign above the roof line at the Benito’s store at 51255 Willis Road was approved after a 10-minute discussion at the Nov. 21 meeting of the Sumpter Township Zoning Board of Appeals.
Before the meeting started, Roy Acho, owner of Benito’s Pizza and the Five Star Market next door, told details of the Nov. 17 fire that damaged the roof and trusses of the market and caused smoke and water damage to the market and water damge to the pizzeria.
He had been renovating the pizzeria, to make it into a sit-down dining area and has been approved locally for a liquor license and is working his way through the state Liquor Control Commission paperwork.
He had hoped to open the new pizzeria the second week in December, but that was before the fire.
He said his request to the ZBA was to put a new sign above the doorway to the dining area and put another sign, which he has in storage, over the doorway to the Five Star Market. He said the hair salon, next to the pizzeria, might want to put up a sign, too.
Acho said he would like to put the signs 24 inches just above the roofline, so rain can flow under it to the gutter.
“No alligators with big feet?” asked ZBA chairwoman Sheila Pedersen.
“No alligators,” he agreed.
They referred to the Bayou Grill sign in downtown Belleville that was considered a sign when it was approved by the city.
Randy Lynch, the township’s ordinance officer, said the present sign location is a potential hazard for customers who could hit their heads on it. He said placing it above the roof line would make it safer.
Acho said he realizes the new ordinances recently approved by the township were created by planning consultants from Troy or Ann Arbor and it might be OK for those areas, but the more-rural area has different needs.
Virginia Belinski made the motion to grant the variance and Sandra Todd seconded the motion, which was passed unanimously.
Deputy Clerk Esther Hurst, who took minutes of the meeting, said Acho had one year to put up the signs.
ZBA members present were: Chairperson Pedersen, Todd, Belinski, Jennifer Marsel, and Township Trustee Alan Bates. Jane Stalmack was absent.
Five Star Market Fire
Acho said he hadn’t had five days off in a row in 25 years and that day was the fifth day since the fire. He was uncomfortable.
He said his biggest concern was his 17 employees. He said he has insurance, so the building will be taken care of, but he was concerned about his employees. He said he told them to file for unemployment and he hoped to call them back in three to four months.
“The least amount of damage is to the pizzeria, so we can open that first,” Acho told the ZBA.
He said the roof has to be replaced and new trusses put in. He said eight employees were in the store at the time of the fire and he is very glad no one was injured.
Acho said it is wonderful to live in a small town.
“Everywhere I go, I get hugs,” he said, adding his store furnishes some food for the Lincoln Consolidated Schools and he got a call from the school offering to send over athletes to help clean up for him.
Acho said the fire department has determined it was not arson, but officials are still trying to determine if it was a neon sign or lightning or something else that caused the fire.
By Rosemary K. Otzman