November 12, 2008

Battle brews over Franklin Cider Mill signs

By EMILIA ASKARI • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Credit: KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL

Battle brews over Franklin Cider Mill signs

January 20, 2011

The famed Franklin Cider Mill may be a quaint piece of living history. But owner Barry Peltz has hung too darn many signs on his 170-year-old landmark business, according to Bloomfield Township officials.

And now, after Peltz has hired an attorney and collected thousands of signatures asking the township for leniency as it demands that he get rid of some of the 40 or so folksy red and white signs plastered on the mill buildings, a hearing on the matter has been postponed.

Peltz credits the signs with helping him sell countless gallons of cider and apple pies at the beloved landmark mill; township code enforcement officials, however, say the large number of signs is just too much. The officials have written four citations over the past month charging Peltz with violating local signage rules. He's been fined $500 and had to remove many of the signs.

Today, Peltz was scheduled to be in Oakland Circuit Court to fight an injunction sought by the township to restrain his signage, which is displayed during the mill's operating season from Labor Day through the Sunday after Thanksgiving. On Tuesday evening, township attorney William P. Hampton said the court date was postponed because Peltz is appealing the decision of the township's Design Review Board to limit his signage.

The matter likely will be taken up by the township's Planning Commission in December, after the cider mill closes for the season. If that fails to resolve the issue, both sides would head back to court.

Peltz, 63, said he isn't interested in compromising.

"I'm not trying to throw it in their face, but I want to survive," he said Tuesday. "I basically want to put all my signs up."

Peltz's father, Jack (Apple Jack) Peltz, bought the mill 48 years ago. Barry Peltz took over the mill five years ago when his father died.

Since then, Barry said he has spent about $30,000 on signage and $80,000 a year on advertising to bring crowds to the mill.

Peltz took down many of the signs -- some of which read "Friday Is Pie Day" and "Ye Olde Water Wheel," -- after receiving his first citation but would replace the signs, sometimes prompting another citation. The township sued in October.

Pie sales plummeted without the signs, Peltz said.

Most of the mill's 250,000 metro Detroit visitors come just once a season. And Peltz said he needs lots of signs to tell new customers that he also sells hot dogs, pies, flowers and apples.The township's treasurer, Dan Devine, explained Tuesday that all Bloomfield Township businesses are allowed to have one main sign. Although the mill is on the edge of Franklin's downtown, it actually lies across 14 Mile Road in the township. The township allows the cider mill to have a handful of extra signs, which have gone up each season in and around the mill for decades. But the rest of the signs hung by Peltz in the last few years have to go, Devine said.

"It's a matter of balance between reasonable and overkill," he added. "If every business was allowed that kind of signage, we might as well be the strip in Las Vegas. And that's not what our residents want. So each business has to play by the same rules."

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