Board of Supervisors Meeting Date: 

Trenis, Inc. 

October 9, 2008

Staff Lead:


Holly Meade, Senior Planner

Community Development

Magisterial District:                                                                                                                        PIN:
Cedar Run                                                                                                                   7922-85-9592-000

Service District: Catlett                                                                                                                                                



A Resolution to Approve a Special Exception Request (SPEX09-CR-001) for Additional Signage for a Service Station


Topic Description:

The applicant is requesting Special Exception approval allowing additional signage for an existing service station, Trenis Exxon, in accord with a recently approved Zoning Ordinance text amendment.  On June 12, 2008, the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors approved a text amendment allowing signage in commercial and industrial areas to be increased by not more than one hundred percent (100%) with Special Exception approval, subject to certain considerations. 

Trenis Exxon has been in business since 1866.  The applicant states that Trenis Exxon is due its ten-year upgrade as required by Exxon Corporation.  According to the applicant, the upgrade proposes modification of existing signage to maintain the station’s drive-by visibility and to create an appearance consistent with other Exxon stations in the region.  The applicant claims the proposed changes will not impact the character or appearance of surrounding properties, as the changes mostly consist of modifications to the existing signage. 

Trenis Exxon is requesting Special Exception approval for approximately 147.95 square feet of signage above their by-right limit.  Signage in the amount of 150 square feet is allowed for this site without triggering requirements for a Special Exception; this increase can be sought in accord with the recent text amendment. 

There is currently a total of 454.95 square feet of signage on the property, with the Zoning Ordinance allowing 150 square feet.  County records show that only two signs have been approved for the Exxon station: (1) a freestanding sign 20 feet tall and 48.5 square feet in area; and (2) an Exxon building sign 12 square feet in area.  What was actually constructed was (1) a freestanding sign 24 feet tall and 149.29 square feet in area; and (2) an Exxon building sign of 30 square feet plus other signs which have no permits. 

According to the proposal, the upgrade includes the removal of two 40.5 square-foot illuminated Exxon panaflex faces from the pump canopy and the installation of two 16 square-foot faces.  The four existing illuminated pump spandrels, 8 square feet each, are to be replaced with Exxon name plates of 3 square feet each.  This amounts to a total reduction in signage by 69 square feet.  All final calculation figures are taken from Zoning Office comments found later within this staff report.

In addition to the upgrade, the request includes an additional freestanding sign of 32 square feet.  This would be a message board sign with interchangeable letters advertising any specials (mulch, pellet, and/or propane sales).  Trenis, Inc. already owns such a sign, but would need a zoning permit if it was approved as part of this Special Exception request. 

Although the applicant has not specified all of the existing signs or which signs are to be legally permitted and remain, it is staff’s understanding that the applicant seeks to end up with the following signage:

Freestanding Exxon/Price Sign:       149.29 SF (24’ height)

Building Sign Exxon:                                     30.00 SF

Building Sign Hardware Store           42.66 SF

Canopy Signs (2 @ 16 sf)                   32.00 SF

Pump Signs (4 @ 3 sf)                        12.00 SF

Misc. Seasonal Freestanding               32.00 SF

                         Total                                     297.95 SF        

This presumes removal of multiple signs, including existing canopy signs, pump signs, and multiple temporary placards and banners.  It does not assume removal of the oversized freestanding sign.  The existing freestanding sign will remain a Zoning Violation even if the Special Exception is approved.


Location,  Zoning and Current Land Use:

The property is located along Catlett Road and zoned a combination of Residential (R-1) and Commercial – Highway (C-2), and is the site of an Exxon service station, Hardware Store and Food Mart.   

Zoning Map



 Surrounding Zoning and Current Land Use: 

Property to the north is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA) and is residential/farmland.  Property to the east is zoned a combination of Industrial (I-1) and Commercial (C-1) and is a combination of vacant land and existing small scale commercial and industrial uses.  The Catlett Volunteer Fire and Rescue is to the south on Commercial (C-1) property.  Property to the west is zoned Residential (R-1) and contains a mixture of vacant land and residential properties.  

Comprehensive Plan/Land Use:

The property is located within the Catlett Service District and has a designation in the Comprehensive Plan as Commercial Highway.  The Comprehensive Plan states “additional commercial along Route 28 is encouraged in the area where the existing grocery store, bank and gas/convenience mart are already located.”

 Land Use Map



Special Exception Analysis:

Article 5-006, General Standards

General standards seek to ensure that the requested use does not adversely affect neighboring properties. Adjacent sites to the north and west where signs are proposed are all sites of existing businesses. 

Article 8-1502, Special Exceptions and Permits (Regarding Signage in Commercial and Industrial Zones)

In considering a request for such special exception, the Board may approve or deny the request in accordance with the general standards for Special Exceptions set forth in Section 5-006, and by consideration of the following, provided, however, that the total permitted sign area not be increased by more than one hundred percent (100%) and that the total area for any one sign not exceed the allowable limits already set forth in Section 8-1501 for particular permitted sign types:

1.         The nature of the proposed use, including such factors as whether the use is a destination or one that relies more on drive-by visibility; and

The use is a service station, which the owner states relies partially on drive-by visibility.  The site is visible to anyone traveling Route 28;  the pumps are located approximately 23 feet from the edge of right-of-way and the building is located approximately 75 feet from the edge of right-of-way.

2.         The character of the existing area and the impact on the visual appearance of adjacent and nearby properties and rights-of-way, particularly entrances to the County from the interstate highways or surrounding jurisdictions, and the major streets leading from those entrances; and

                The existing area contains a mix of commercial uses, including the gas station, hardware store, food mart, and bank.  The property fronts on Route 28, Catlett Road.  Route 28, Catlett Road, is classified as minor arterial. 

3.      Whether a unique situation exists, causing a need that is not recurring in nature; and

There does not appear to be a unique situation associated with this request.

4.      The area’s designation in the County’s Comprehensive Plan; and

The area is designated as Commercial Highway in the County’s Comprehensive Plan.

5.         The existence of a special visual obstruction or difficulty in locating the use, making the application of the general provisions of this section too restrictive.

There does not appear to be any visual obstruction.  As previously stated, the gas station and pumps are all located within 75 feet of Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  right-of-way for Route 28.

Staff and Review Agency Comments: 

Zoning Office

1.                    Zoning:  The subject property is located along Route 28 in Catlett, approximately 1¾ miles from the Prince William County/Fauquier County boundary line.  The property contains 54.24 acres.  An estimated one-quarter of the property, is zoned C-2 commercial.  The C-2 zoning is located along the Route 28 frontage of the property for a depth of approximately 270-300 feet.  The remainder of the lot is zoned R-1/Residential. 

2.         General Zoning Ordinance Sign Regulations:  The property is occupied by multiple buildings and uses with the commercial uses, including the Exxon, within 500 feet of Route 28 frontage toward the eastern end.   The Exxon station shares a building with the “Trenis Hardware Store.”     The gas station and hardware store are physically linked and under the same management and the old sign permits from 1988 treated them as one tenant for the purposes of sign allowance.  The Zoning Ordinance generally limits a property to 150 square feet of signage.  However, where multiple tenants occupy a property, the signage allowed for each tenant is generally calculated based on the individual building frontage, with each limited to 2 square feet of signage for the first 50 feet of building frontage plus 1 square foot of signage for each additional foot of building frontage, up to a maximum of 150 square feet.    (Zoning Ordinance §8-1501.1.B(2))   Therefore, instead of the multiple businesses on the entire property sharing 150 square feet of signage, the Exxon/Hardware building is sufficient in size to be allocated 150 square feet for the structure alone, exclusive of the other businesses such as the food mart, etc. 

            The Zoning Ordinance addresses signage for gas stations specifically.  As with other uses, a basic sign budget is calculated utilizing the building frontage, but in addition, the signage provisions for gas stations also allow certain specific signage that is not counted toward the maximum sign allowance.

3.                 Specific Signage Allowed by Zoning Ordinance for Use:  In this case, staff estimates (as the applicant has not provided precise figures) that the Exxon Station has 55 feet of building frontage, giving it a total sign budget of 105 square feet.   The following signs are allowed by the Zoning Ordinance within this sign budget:

1.         A freestanding sign up to 50 square feet and 20 feet in height.

2.         A second freestanding sign up to 10 square feet and 4 feet in height for prices only.

3.         Building signs.

4.         Signage on gasoline pumps.

            The following additional signs are also allowed for gasoline stations, and are not counted toward the sign budget:

            5.         A 2.5 square foot sign identifying proprietor, address, phone.

6.         Vending machine signage when within a building enclosed on 3 sides.

            7.         Building signs identifying the special functions of service bays.

            8.         Temporary window signs.

            (Section 8-1501.2.H of the Zoning Ordinance)

4.                 Permitted Signage:  County records show that two signs have been approved for the Exxon station (Permit #30724, December 1988):

                        1.         Freestanding Exxon/Price Sign:          48.5 SF (20’ height)

                        2.         Exxon Building Sign:                                     12    SF

                                                                                    Total:   60.5 SF

5.                 Existing Signage:  Staff has had some difficulty assessing the total signage existing on the site, given the multiple businesses and profusion of changing and illegal signage on the overall site, and difficulty in measuring signs out-of-reach.  None of the existing signage related to the Exxon/Hardware store has required permits.   Based on the information submitted by the applicant and staff’s general estimate of sign area, the following signage exists on the site related to the Exxon: 

            1.         Freestanding Exxon/Price Sign:       149.29 SF (24’ height)

            2.         Building Sign Exxon:                                     30.00 SF

            3.         Building Sign Hardware:                    42.66 SF

            4.         Canopy Signs (2 @ 40.5 sf):               81.00 SF

            5.         Pump Signs (4 @ 8 sf):                       32.00 SF

            6.         Freestanding Message Sign:               20.00 SF

            7.         Misc. Banners & Placards                 

                                    (changes-12 counted at last visit):      100    SF

                                                                        Total:             454.95 SF

6.                 Proposed New Signage:          The applicant is proposing two new canopy signs identified as 12.39 SF each in size.  It appears the size has been incorrectly calculated, and the actual area of each sign is approximately 16 SF, for a total of 32 SF.  (Staff has asked applicant for a recalculation).   These canopy signs would replace canopy signs which the applicant indicates are currently 90 SF in size.  It is unclear how this size was calculated. 

            Although the applicant has not specified all of the existing signs or which signs are to be legally permitted and remain, Zoning Staff’s understanding is that the applicant seeks to end up with the following signage:

            1.         Freestanding Exxon/Price Sign:       149.29 SF (24’ height)

            2.         Building Sign Exxon:                                     30.00 SF

            4.         Building Sign Hardware:                    42.66 SF

            5.         Canopy Signs (2 @ 16 sf):                  32.00 SF

            6.         Pump Signs (4 @ 3 sf):                       12.00 SF

            7.         Misc. seasonal freestanding:               32.00 SF

                                                            Total                            297.95 SF       


            This presumes removal of multiple signs, including existing canopy signs, pump signs, and multiple temporary placards and banners.  It does not presume removal of the oversized freestanding sign.

            Under the text amendment, the Special Exception (SE) can approve a maximum of 300 SF of signage for this site.  The Board of Supervisors can approve an increase in signage to allow the Zoning Administrator to approve sign permits for the proposed canopy and pump signs.  Staff notes that there is no authority under the SE to approve a freestanding sign of the existing size (149 SF); no single sign may be larger than the maximum size under the ordinance.  The maximum size for any freestanding sign under the Zoning Ordinance is 75 square feet.  Therefore the existing freestanding sign will remain a Zoning Violation even if the SE is approved.

Planning Commission Action:

On September 28, 2008 the Fauquier County Planning Commission recommended approval of the Special Exception request with a four to one vote subject to certain conditions listed below.  One condition states, “The Special Exception shall expire one year after the Board of Supervisor’s adoption of a new sign ordinance.”  The Planning Commission stated that with the upcoming review and eventual adoption of a new sign ordinance, a limit should be placed on the approval. 

Summary and Recommendation:

If the Board of Supervisors wishes to approve the Special Exception, staff recommends doing so subject to the following conditions of approval (this assumes approval of the seasonal freestanding sign as part of the Special Exception):

1.                   The Special Exception is for a maximum of 147.95 square feet of additional signage over the 150 square feet allowed.

2.                   Zoning permits shall be obtained for the Building Hardware sign, two canopy signs and four pump signs.

3.                   Multiple signs, including existing canopy signs, pump signs, and multiple temporary placards and banners shall be removed within fifteen days of Special Exception approval or the Special Exception shall be null and void.

4.                  All unpermitted signs shall require an approved zoning permit before installation.

5.                  The Special Exception shall expire one (1) year after the Board of Supervisors’ adoption of a             new sign ordinance.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors: 

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached resolution.   

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Commissioner of the Revenue
Department of Economic Development 



1.                  Statement of Justification

2.                  Calculations for “Exxon” sign

3.                  Letter from Interstate sign dated June 6, 2008

4.                  Calculation of square footage for existing freestanding sign

5.                  Photographs of site

6.                  Photographs showing removal of existing canopy faces

7.                  Photographs showing what Exxon 2-D Image looks like installed


Back to Agenda...