Lewiston historic board wants more info before allowing Agora sign

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LEWISTON — Permission to erect a sign — either an LED sign or a wooden sign — in front of the former St. Patrick’s Church in the Kennedy Park Historic District was asked for but not granted Thursday.

Instead, the Lewiston Historic Preservation Review Board members directed a frustrated Andrew Knight of The Agora Grand Events Center to come back with drawn-to-scale, hard copy of what the sign will look like, as well as inform the board what the sign will be made of and where it will be located.

Knight bought the former St. Patrick’s Church and rectory in 2014. He’s planning to repurpose the 1890 church with its grand space and soaring spires into a venue for conventions, celebrations and weddings. He has opened the Inn at the Agora, a boutique hotel, in the former church’s rectory. The inn has attracted high reviews on TripAdvisor.

On Thursday, Knight asked the historic preservation board for a certificate of appropriateness to erect a wooden sign or an LED sign, if he gets permission for the electric sign from the U.S. National Park Service.

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Board members told him they would not approve a sign without having specifics.

“You need to give us more,” board member Jennifer Ferguson said. “You’re proposing a new structure in a historic district.” The ordinance requires “we have a drawing to scale and we have a real idea of where it’s going to appear.”

The board can’t give Knight permission without seeing what they’re actually voting on, she said.

An unhappy Knight responded that at the last meeting, Ferguson wanted to know the colors of the sign.

He provided the board with that information.

“Nobody else raised that as an issue,” he said.

At the last meeting, Knight said he didn’t intend to bring any information the next time.

“That was an opportunity for you to say, ‘No, we would like more information,’” Knight told board members. “So I am very frustrated right now that you are apparently suggesting yet another meeting when we’re all very busy, employed people.”

Board member Fredda Wolf said she doesn’t want the issue to become adversarial, but Ferguson was not asking for that information because it was her personal opinion.

“She’s reading from the rules,” Wolf said. “Whether you like them, whether we mentioned them or we didn’t, that’s what you have to come with. So if you came unprepared, I don’t think that is the responsibility of any of the board members.”

The historic district regulations are there to protect historic buildings and spaces, Wolf said.

“I am not about to be casual with this building,” she said. “I just plain think you haven’t informed yourself. You haven’t met the requirements.”

And with a proposed LED sign, “I have no clue what it’s going to be, what the wattage is going to be, whether you’re going to try and get some moving display that lights up the way, like signs do in Las Vegas,” Wolf said. “I’m not comfortable with this at all.”

“Wow. Wow,” Knight said.

Knight said he’d bring more information at the next meeting, repeating that he told the board at the last meeting that he would not be bringing more information. Not obtaining approval Thursday would continue to postpone the development, he added

Another meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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