Clement's Hardware plans to appeal -- "as far as we have to go" -- the county's order to remove a 40-foot-high sign at the Robinson Road building the store shares with Blockbuster Video.
"We asked for permission to build that sign where we put it and the county gave it to us. Now they want us to take down (an $8,000) sign. I plan to appeal that decision to the nth degree," said Gordon Clement, of the family-owned hardware store.
The Greater Severna Park Council passed a unanimous resolution on Dec.
11 opposing "all of Blockbuster Video's free-standing and wraparound signs," including one that is on top of a Clement-owned "ServiStar" sign that faces a residential neighborhood near the Robinson Road-Ritchie Highway intersection.
In response to the GSPC's and the North Severna Park Community Association's complaints, Richard Gauch, the county's chief of land use enforcement, checked the property and found that Clement's 40-foot sign and four smaller signs were in violation of four sections of the county's rarely enforced sign ordinance. Last week, Gauch ordered the removal of the Robinson Road sign by Jan. 11.
Ironically, the free-standing sign is illegal because it is within 50 feet of residential property owned by Walter Sosnoski, who owns the Blockbuster/Clement Hardware property, Gauch said. Sosnoski's house had been mistakenly listed as commercially zoned in the original June 1989 application, but county records show that the house was rezoned residential in February 1989.
Clement said the incorrect information came from the county and that he doesn't believe his business should be penalized for a mistake made by the Department of Planning and Zoning.
But Gauch and some Robinson Road residents disagree, saying Clement and Blockbuster have violated the spirit as well as the letter of the law by erecting such an imposing lighted sign near homes, and that they should face the consequences.
"If the sign stays who suffers? The community, that's who. I don't have anything against them personally, but (Gordon Clement) is being all-business about this. He wants to put as big a sign as he can up there without any regard to the community's wishes or whatever infractions he commits in the process," said Timothy Meyer, who lives two doors away.
Meyer was the first person to raise the sign issue at the November meeting of the GSPC.
Blockbuster, a franchise operated by VI Video Stores out of Denver, has not received official notification of the violations. Gauch is meeting with VI representatives this afternoon to discuss the problem.
"We did everything we were supposed to in getting permits for the signs.
We're not trying to pull a fast one, but naturally we don't want to lose our signs or cause a big uproar either," said Alethia Zaremba, project manager for VI Video Stores. "We need to find out where we stand."