The local Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge is taking down a large sign in its front window after the city refused to give the organization a variance to continue displaying it.
The 72-square-foot sign is painted across the club’s front windows — 4 feet tall with two 18-foot green banners on either side. One banner has “F.O.E.” on the right, and the other on the left has “741,” the lodge number.
But the sign is in violation of the city’s comprehensive downtown plan, said Jeff Bergman, city-county planning director.
The sign is too big, and the downtown plan specifically discourages window coverings which cover the interiors of downtown buildings.
The Eagles moved into the building at 930 Washington St. near downtown in August, and members decided they wanted more than one sign, said J.R. Purtlebaugh, the lodge president. The lodge had two signs and then decided to paint the third sign, the one in violation, across the club’s windows.
In its enthusiasm, the group ran afoul of city zoning regulations which limit window signs in the downtown zoning districts to no more than 20 square feet total, Purtlebaugh said. Still, he said he hoped for a reprieve from the Columbus Plan Commission.
“I’m just disappointed,” Purtlebaugh said.
The Eagles members were just trying to make the building look better, he said.
When the group installed the sign six weeks ago, nobody said anything about the size limits, said Larry Kelley, lodge vice president. The group went to the code enforcement office, paid a $30 sign fee and went to work.
Three weeks later, several members of the planning department dropped off a notification saying the sign was too big, Kelley said. So, the lodge decided to ask for the variance.
The response was a unanimous “no” from the plan commission.
“If we allow you to do this, then we have to allow everyone downtown to do this,” plan commission member Tony London said.
But, it wasn’t a total loss for the members of Eagles Lodge 741, Purtlebaugh said.
At the center of the 72-square-foot-banner is a 4-foot tall, 3-foot wide medallion emblazoned with an eagle swooping through imaginary air. At less than 20 square feet total, the eagle gets to stay, plan commission member Dave Jones said.
According to a history available on their website, the Fraternal Order of Eagles is a national charitable organization which formed in 1898 when six theater owners in Seattle met with a group of musicians who were on strike.
After days of tense negotiation, the strike ended and both parties decided to “bury the hatchet” by forming a united group with the mission of supporting local charities.
The local Columbus lodge, No. 741, formed six years later in 1904 and was located at 217 Washington St. until relocating to its current location on Aug. 26, 2015. Since moving, the group’s membership has doubled to more than 1,000 people, lodge president J.R. Purtlebaugh said.