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Wal-Mart won’t be boxed in about Rifle plans

James Blatter
Rifle Citizen Telegram

Rifle planners granted sign variances for the proposed Wal-Mart superstore, but the company has not made a final commitment to build the store.

Fred Banfield and Troy Kelts of Kimley-Horn and Associates, the engineering firm that represents Wal-Mart, appeared before the Rifle Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday seeking zoning variances for signs around the store.

The company wants a change in the height and placement of signs. Wal-Mart would like a 30-foot-high sign in front of the store on Airport Road and a 60-foot-sign behind the store bordering Interstate 70. The company also wants a sign on the back of the building, facing I-70.

City code limits sign height to 27 feet and limits retailers to one sign on the front of the store.

City planning director Matt Sturgeon recommended that the board accept the signs that would be on the building. But he recommended that free-standing poles stay at the height the city requires for other businesses.

Commissioner John Scalzo asked Kelts why the company wanted the higher sign along I-70, and how close travelers would be before they saw the sign.

Kelts estimated that westbound motorists could see the sign a half-mile before the Rifle exit. But it would take a sign 100 feet or taller to catch the eye of eastbound motorists.

Kelts said he was working from a Wal-Mart master plan, and the variances proposed were standard for a store of this type and location.

Sturgeon said Kelts and Banfield agreed to his recommendations.

The commissioners voted 6-0 to allow the variances. Commissioner Gary Osier was absent from the proceedings. Voting for approval were John Getty, Rae Ann Bartels, Ken Plum, Margaret Long, Scalzo, and Jeff Girard.

This approval doesn’t herald the coming of the retail giant. Banfield said after the meeting that he is now on stand-by.

“Our next step is waiting for Wal-Mart to make the commitment and decide if they are coming to Rifle or not,” said Banfield.

While a site plan for a 107,000-square-foot “super-center” Wal-Mart store was submitted in July, there has been no further commitment by the corporation. Wal-Mart spokesman John Bisio said nothing changed in the last week and nothing else would be announced until the middle of September.

In related business, the planning commission members discussed allowing Rifle Retail Ventures, Inc., the developer working with Wal-Mart, another sign variance.

Retail Ventures asked for two split-face, billboard-type signs with 72 square feet of display space to announce lots available for sale or lease. Currently the city standard for real estate signs is six square feet.

Retail Ventures planned to have display faces looking east and west on both the I-70 side of the property and the Airport road side of the property.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has already ruled that the proposed I-70 sign was too large by federal law. Highway beautification laws enacted in the 1960s outlawed billboards within 300 feet of the federal right of way.

Wal-Mart’s signs would not be affected because they would be attached to a building.

Rifle planning staff recommended allowing the Ventures partners to place signs with 48 square feet of display space.

The commissioners voted 4-2 to allow for the sign variances. Commissioners Bartels and Scalzo voted against it because they felt the signs were too large, especially on Airport Road.


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