In Severna Park, signs of battle are giving way to negotiation.
The trouble is signs, movable signs that seem to crop up overnight, stationary signs that are too big, too close to the road, too close to people's homes, too flashy.
The trouble with signs came to a head in Severna Park last year, when Blockbuster Video burst on the Ritchie Highway scene with a blinking sign in the store window and a big ticket-shaped sign on the building.
Neighbors saw red. The county ordered the big sign removed,while acknowledging that sign ordinance violations are so widespreadthat its enforcement officers cannot possibly keep up.
Since then, neighborhood people and business owners have joined forces in a mood of conciliation. Together, they hope to resolve this chronic dispute through discussion, voluntary efforts by business people, enforcement of existing county regulations and ordinance revisions.
"We arejust trying to define some of the problems," said Patricia Troy, president of the Greater Severna Park Council, one of about 10 residentsand business people who attended a meeting last month at the county planning and zoning office.
She said members of her group and the Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce have formed a task force to work on bringing signs into compliance with zoning codes.
"The goal is voluntary sign improvements in Severna Park," Troy said.
"There are no good guys and bad guys."
This is a far cry from the remarks heard around Severna Park last year when neighbors referred to Blockbuster's sign as a "bodacious eyesore," and "an abomination."
Richard Josephson, acting zoning administrator, said the July meeting was a "kick-off" session, to be followed with meetings in August and in September with the Greater Severna Park Council and with the Chamber of Commerce.
He said he'll review sign regulations "to make them aware what is, what is not permitted."
After that, he said zoning officers will take a walk or drive down one street to see how well the effort is working. He said Benfield Boulevard has been chosen forthis "sign sweep."
"I hope this enforcement effort in Severna Park can be seen as a positive move," said Troy. I don't think anyone wants to make anything hard for anyone."
Hammond "Skip" Carr, president of the chamber, said "the chamber's position is if one of our members has an illegal sign, give him some time to get it moved . . . Insome of these cases you might be talking a $10,000 sign."
In manycases, he said the standard 15-day's grace to correct a zoning violation is not enough.
Josephson said that many of the violations involve temporary signs, all of which are illegal unless they are used to publicize some temporary situation such as a building for sale.
He said many businesses are using movable signs as they would a fixedsign, to advertise a product or service they offer all the time.