In one of the biggest zoning enforcement sweeps in county history, 16 Benfield corridor businesses were cited last week and given until Tuesday to get rid of their illegal banners and signs.
The businessowners, however, complained that the sweep through their region was unfair because it places them at a disadvantage to their non-Benfieldarea competitors.
"My problem is not with enforcement of the sign code," said Severna Park Inn Discount Liquors owner Bob Cancelliere. "I live here, andI agree that we have to beautify the road. The problem I have is (that) by citing us and making us adhere to every last regulation, I'm put at a competitive disadvantage with all the other liquor stores like Dawson's and Fishpaws that do not."
Cancelliere has been told toremove all the flapping beer and liquor sale banners from the sign in front of his building. He's also been ordered to take down the yellow sign that has been on his roof since he bought the store in 1972 because it projects above his roofline.
Cancelliere and several other businessmen interviewed yesterday said that the county should begin the formidable job of enforcing its long-neglected sign ordinances industry by industry instead of zone by zone.
"The bulk of people who come in for our sales say they learned about the sale from our banner. If you go to Sherwin-Williams on Ritchie Highway, you'll see banners like this everywhere. Why should I be penalized for being on Benfield?" asked Chet Gaudy, owner of Chesapeake Paints, who was cited for his sale banner and a wooden locater sign that inspectors said istoo close -- within 10 feet -- to the road.
Cancelliere and others plan to air their grievances at the next meeting of the Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce. Acting Zoning Administrator Richard Josephson said he plans to attend that meeting to explain the laws and gather feedback.
Zoning enforcement officials guessed there may beseveral thousand illegal signs in the county, including virtually all banners, flags, sandwich boards, flashing and temporary signs.
Many businesses also have more signs than are allowed, signs that are too large or signs along roads that their businesses don't face -- all violations.
In response to pressure from the Greater Severna Park Council, whose members have described the inundation of signs as the "greatest blight" on the landscape of Anne Arundel, County Executive Robert R. Neall is planning to introduce legislation next month to improve the law and get rid of the illegal signs.
Spokeswoman Louise Hayman said that Neall would be meeting with his administrators Friday to work out kinks in the bill. She said it would be ready for presentation to the County Council on Wednesday or Sept. 16.
Thursday's sweep along Benfield Road and Benfield Boulevard was planned by the Office of Planning and Zoning in conjunction with members of a task force from both the Greater Severna Park Council and Chamber of Commerce.
Violators have until Tuesday to remove their signs or applyfor an extension. Zoning officers plan to check the signs again after that day; businesses that haven't complied will be subject to $50 per day fines up to a maximum of $500, inspector Warren Duckett III said.
Duckett said other businesses cited along Benfield for postingillegal signs were: Out on a Limb, Saddle Up, Almo, the Maryland Gym, the Benfield Ice Rink, G & S Auto, Park Place Wine and Spirits, Benfield Shell, Park Gourmet, Eyeglass Menagerie, the 7-Eleven at Jumpers Hole, Severna Park Baptist Church, and the offices of Drs. Patrick M. Brophy D.D.S. and Florence G. Blanck.