Just to be clear, I think the law of firm of Warner Norcross & Judd is a band of bandits. So I'm shedding no tears for these shysters, having lost their grip on the city government after the departure of Boss Logie and now getting slammed by the Grand Rapids Planning Commission last week.
Nevertheless, I must say that the Planning Commission's denial of Warner Norcross's request for additional street level signage on the Fifth Third Building downtown was obnoxious. It appears that certain members of that commission -- i.e., Shaula Johnston -- don't get what their public mandate is. The Planning Commission has no authority to design what we build in River City. They really don't even have the authority to plan it. What they do have the authority to do is approve or deny projects based upon city ordinances.
For example, Warner Norcross asked the Planning Commission to approve erecting new signs with its name and logo at its main offices in the Fifth Third Building. However, city ordinance limits the total amount a commercial signage permitted on a site, and the on-site signage for just Fifth Third Bank alone already excceeded that amount. So Warner Norcross had to make the case that a special hardship existed that would make the application of the ordinance unjust and allow the Planning Commission to use its lawful discretion to exempt the law firm's signage from the ordinance.
Apparently the Planning Commission did not find a special hardship -- no doubt because Warner Norcross has been headquarted in the same building for four decades with no one having trouble finding the firm -- and denied the request. So far, so good. Whether or not the signage ordinance is good public policy, the Planning Commission has to make its decision based upon it.
That seems to elude Commissioner Johnston who was offended by the very fact that Warner Norcross had made this request. According to the Grand Rapids Press, Johnston excoriated the law firm for proposing signs with its logo as "unclassy". O, the horrors of a business wanting its logo on advertising! Then the thoroughly estimable commissioner added, "I feel it's offensive that [Warner Norcross] think they're so special that they need something different." Different? Oh, that's right. How odd that a business would want its sign on the building it's located in.
As for Warner Norcross thinking it's special, well, that IS the case a petitioner has to make when asking for an exemption from a city ordinance. To be offended by that is to be offended by the very process of petitioning the Planning Commission. One wonders how Johnston endures in her post with all those "offensive" petitioners submitting their "unclassy" designs to her.