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8/20/2013 11:53:00 AM
Sandoval sues city of Williams over Love's sign variance
Complaint filed Aug. 9 also alleges open meeting violations
Local gas station owner Chuck Sandoval filed a complaint asking that four sign variances that the city granted to a planned Love's Travel Stop be denied.
Local gas station owner Chuck Sandoval filed a complaint asking that four sign variances that the city granted to a planned Love's Travel Stop be denied.

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

A Flagstaff lawyer representing local gas station owner Chuck Sandoval filed a complaint with the Superior Court of Arizona against the city of Williams Aug. 9.

In the complaint, lawyer Tevis Reich claims that "The Board of Adjustment erred in approving and granting" four sign variances to a Love's Travel Stop planned for north of I-40 near the RV Park and Quality Inn. The complaint asks for a stay in issuing the variances, that the variances be denied and that the city pay attorney fees.

Sandoval owns a Shell and a Mobil gas station in Williams, which have the same zoning requirements as the planned Love's station.

On July 11 Williams City Council members (acting as the Board of Adjustment) unanimously approved a variance for Love's to erect a large freestanding sign advertising the gas station and displaying current gas prices. The council also approved variances allowing for additional signage.

Love's asked for the variance so truckers could easily see the sign, have enough time to maneuver on the interstate and know where to stop safely.

Williams has an ordinance in place stating the maximum height for a freestanding sign should not exceed 60 feet with a maximum size of 300 square feet. A typical Love's high-rise sign is more than 1,000 square feet, but Love's reduced the size to 558 square feet to accommodate the city's ordinance.

In the past, the Williams City Council has granted sign variances for Olson's Grain, Best Western Motel, McDonald's, Chevron and Holiday Inn. The Mobil Station has three freestanding signs on site with only one legal street frontage sign.

Sandoval's complaint alleges that council members made three errors in granting the sign variances.

The first error was that the board did not use the proper criteria to legally issue a variance, according to the complaint.

The complaint contends that the board granted the variances based on circumstances that "were not a qualifying special circumstance and were self-imposed in any instance." This goes against the criteria in the city code for granting a variance, according to the complaint.

The second error is that the board did not make the factual findings that the city code requires for granting a variance, according to the complaint.

The third error is that the board did not allow Sandoval to "cross examine witnesses," which is a right outlined in the city code, during the July 11 meeting, according to the complaint.

A separate part of the complaint alleges open meeting law violations by the city council acting as the Board of Adjustment. According to state statutes, the city must provide notice before meetings take place and meetings must be open to the public. A gathering of four council members constitutes a quorum.

The complaint alleges that council and board members Don Dent, John Moore, Lee Payne, Bernie Hiemenz and Frank McNelly and City Manager Brandon Buchanan met at Wild West Junction, which Moore owns, to deliberate the sign variances.

City officials were unavailable for comment as of press time.

A court date is set for Aug. 26 at 3 p.m. at 200 N. San Francisco St. in Flagstaff.

Related Stories:
• Judge dismisses Love's Travel Stop lawsuit

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Article comment by: Bobby Patricca

"unfair competition", do you realize how many other businesses have applied for and received variances to various city codes? Has Mr. Sandoval ever applied for a sign variance himself? Your "play by the city codes, period" stance just doesn't hold water given the circumstances we are talking about here and prior history. To deny their application just because it is larger than City Code would then be "unfair competition" for the Best Western (which also features a fuel station on its sign), Chevron (also a gas station, located even closer to the freeway than the planned Love's location), and McDonalds (due to Love's also planning to bring a fast food restaurant, Carls Jr., to its location). Why can other fuel stations (that do NOT have available fueling for OTR truck, hence their clientele should be able to make quicker decisions on whether to exit the freeway or not) get sign variances but the Love's cannot? That would be considered an "unfair advantage", not approving the variance.

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Article comment by: another long time resident

P Lucas & Lifelong Resident

The "hometown boy" had no choice but to sue the "city" when the "city" gives a company from Oklahoma a unfair business advantage. Sueing the residents of his home town? Geez that is funny. When the city council screws up then the City is accountable, the have a attorney and insurance.

I'm sure if Mr. Lucas was a successful busniness man(doubtful I know), he wouldn't take a stand to defend his business if he thought he was being wronged by the city.

You can always buy your gas at Circle K whose prices has never been higher then the Chevron prices at Valley.

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Article comment by: Crazy Crazy

No one seems to care that your city council is breaking the open meeting laws of the state of Arizona? Loves & Sandoval they will be fine at the end of the day, but who gets stuck paying for the settlement for the council allegedly violating open meeting laws?

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Article comment by: unfair competition Cassie Hall

Competition is one thing Cassie, giving a business a unfair signage advatage is another. Why is that so hard to understand?

Come to town Loves, but follow the city ordinances. Is it too much to ask a big corporation from Oklahoma to follow little old William's sign ordinaces?

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Article comment by: Lifelong Resident

Patrick Lucus hit the nail right on the head with his comment. It's sad that Williams Residents have had to pay higher gas prices for years, even higher than Valley, which is located between here and the Grand Canyon.

Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013
Article comment by: Cassie Hall

I love competition it is better for all.

Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Article comment by: McGee take a few classes

Please go back to school and learn how to spell and write a complete sentence. Then maybe someone might take what you write seriously.

Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013
Article comment by: Whodunnit McGee

I agree Love shouldn't not have been granted a variance to the sign code. It should be rejected, as well as the sign variance that has been granted to at least 3 other local businesses. Furthermore all variances of any codes in Williams should be voided and every business should be strictly required to adhere the the city code in the books, with no special permissions ever granted. I mean it's not like everyone has a fair chance and the ability to get their case heard by the city for special requests or code variances, Love is the only one.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: loves gets special treatment

Ok. The sign ordinance allows for 300 sq. feet sign.. Loves gets a 558 sq foot sign. The council may not have changed the rules according to Lucas, so the council must have decided that Loves doesn't have to follow the code(rules).

G George

I don't see any suit trying to stop Loves from coming to town. The suit is to not allow the council to let Loves have a sign that doesn't meet the city sign code.

Why can't Loves just come to town and follow the city's codes????

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: G George is confused

G George

Mr. Sandoval is not crying about Loves. He is sueing the City of Williams for granting a variance to the City of William's sign code. He isn't sueing to stop Loves from being built.

Why can't Loves just build their station and follow the sign code? Why can't they play fair? Why do they get a sign that is twice the size allowed by city code?? They are the ones who asked for special treatment from the city council and got it.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: First Name

Well I guess 'old timer' sure told 'G George' just how the cow ate the cabbage. But I do believe that G George has hit the nail on the head with this one.
If Mr. Sandoval does not like the idea that Love's Travel is getting a 'sign variance' then why doesn't Mr. Sandoval apply for his own sign variance with the city?? The city can't hardly tell him no since they have already approved several sign variances in William.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: yeah right Lucas

The city sign code is essentially a "rule". When the City Council granted Loves a sign code varience, they allowed Loves to NOT follow the city sign code(rules). You can call it what ever you want, but Loves does not have to follow the city sign code(rule) since the council granted them their wish. When you do something that hurts other businesses then you open up the City to a law suit. That is on the City Council.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: old timer

Patrick Lucas

He is sueing the City of Williams because they are giving a business advatage to Loves. They gave then a "variance" of the sign code. Here is a definition since you don't know what the word means.

var·i·ance (vâr-ns, vr-)
a. The act of varying.
b. The state or quality of being variant or variable a variation.
c. A difference between what is expected and what actually occurs.
2. The state or fact of differing or of being in conflict. See Synonyms at discord.
3. Law
a. A discrepancy between two statements or documents in a proceeding.
b. License to engage in an act contrary to a usual rule: a zoning variance.
4. Statistics The square of the standard deviation.
In a state of discrepancy differing: The facts are at variance with your story.

The council is letting Loves deviate from the City of Williams SIGN CODE. When the council deviates from it's own code, then the court is the only remedy.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: G George

Well lets see we have Mr.Chuck Sandoval a city business owner of two gas stations ?? and we have a new kid coming into town Love's Travel Stop now it seems to me that Mr Sandoval does not want to play fair and he is crying to the city councel about a couple of signs that are a little different in size and he is not very happy that the city is leaning towards love's signs in my view Mr. Sandoval does not want Love's in town at all he wants to corner the gas market period and have some of the highest prices in town that's why some of the people of williams go out of the area to get gas because prices are so high and Mr Sandoval is not helping one bit. Love's Travel Stop will be a good move for everybody around the town of williams. So Mr Sandoval stop your crying deal with it lower your prices town folk will be more than happy to get gas in town rather than go out of town to get fuel

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Article comment by: Patrick Lucus

We really have to get away from this notion that the city changed the rules for Love’s….the rules allow for a sign variance, if the council so determines, and if Chuck wants to have a bigger sign, then he should petition the city for a sign variance just like other businesses have done. To me, this isn’t about forcing Chuck to lower his gas prices, he can charge $20 a gal as far as I am concerned, and it’s up to the consumer to be smart enough not be ripped off. This is about a “hometown” boy who sues the residents of his home town, doesn’t look like civic pride to me. Being a successful businessman at the expense of the local residents, who will have to pay to defend this lawsuit, isn’t something I would be proud of.

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