Variances approved for Rindge diner's neon signBy MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent
August 29. 2013 10:15PM
RINDGE — The Zoning Board of Adjustment granted the Hometown Diner two variances Tuesday, ensuring the retro neon sign of the 1940s refurbished diner will be part of the new restaurant when it opens this fall.
The turnout of residents supporting the neon sign — many staying until after midnight to hear the decision — was "heartwarming," owner Tim Halliday said Thursday.
"It adds the whole package," Halliday said of the sign, and people wanted it.
The Hometown Diner, as it was named a few years ago when it was refurbished, was recently purchased by Rindge businessman Halliday, who said he has been looking for the past two years for a diner for the corner lot he owns.
This summer, the 1947 Silk City diner made a 700-mile journey from Ottawa, Ohio, to Rindge where it sits on Route 119 near the Route 202 intersection.
Halliday came before the zoning board Tuesday seeking two variances to the town sign ordinance in hopes of using the large "Hometown Diner" neon sign that came with the diner when he purchased it.
The town sign ordinance only allows for two-square foot indoor neon signs, such as open and close signs.
The signs also exceeded the size limits at 60 square feet.The town sign ordinance limits signs in the Commercial Gateway District, where the diner is located, to 32 square feet, but allows for a second sign up to 48 square feet.
There was a huge turnout and a lot of debate, but in the end both variances were approved 4 to 1.
"There were people who were very much for it and there were people who were very much against it, but that's not what the ZBA made the decision on."
Though many felt there was no place in town for the neon signs, the historic nature of the diner and how the sign enhances that was certainly a factor in the variance approval, as well as the diner's location, Hill said.
"The building itself went back late '40s. They don't know the age of the sign, but it certainly was in keeping with a diner of that era," Hill said. "This sits within the gateway district. Rindge is trying to attract new businesses to town. This is near the intersection of routes 202 and 119. As people come up to the area they are going to be looking for a place to stop and have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat and everybody, no matter where they are from, are used to seeing diners."
The diner will not only attract motorists, but residents and Franklin Pierce University students are also looking forward to it opening, Hill said.
"I think this place is going to be fantastically busy," he said. "It's a great thing in town and the controversy was not the diner, it was neon signs."
Halliday said he is leasing the diner out to Bonnie Rosencrantz, who hopes to open the restaurant mid-September.