County officials, fed up after years of trying to pass a new law restricting signs, have decided to begin enforcing part of the law already on the books.
County Executive Robert R. Neall announced Fridayhe intends to enforce part of the law to reduce the clutter of temporary signs around the county.
"I can tell you, as I drive up and down the roads, that Anne Arundel County has gotten a little out of hand," Neall told members of the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors.
"We've got to get things back under control. Our county is beginning to look a little shabby," he said.
Neall asked Realtors to comply with the law voluntarily. He said officials will soon begin enforcing the law, and county road and utility crews will remove temporary signs from the public right of way.
He said he also will meet with fast-food and service-station representatives to enlist their help in reducing the clutterof signs.
Sandy Sadler, chairman of the association's county legislative committee, said that Realtors favor enforcing the law and that only a few Realtors abuse the county's law allowing temporary signs.
"By and large, Realtors, builders and developers are aware of the law and are very cooperative," Sadler said. "We want our county to look beautiful, too."
Realtors and developers may post signs on weekends directing people to a house or development, said acting countyzoning administrator Richard Josephson.
But Realtors and developers often abuse the privilege, Josephson said, leaving signs up all week.
Josephson said the county enforces the sign ordinance only when it gets a complaint.
He said illegal temporary signs are more ofa problem than permanent signs that don't conform to zoning law.
"There hasn't been a concerted effort to focus on signs until now," Josephson said.
Neall said he hopes enforcing the law will force businesses to compromise on a new law.
County officials have tried to revise the sign law for more than two years, but businesses have opposed the measures as too strict. The county wants to limit the number and size of signs for each business.
Neall had hoped to introduce a revised bill earlier this month, but said he was holding it up until he was sure the county had a law it could enforce.
"We're not so sure it's the right thing," he said. "We're looking for something that's workable."
Neall said he hopes experience gained from enforcing the current law will help officials draft a new law. He said anynew law would be phased in, to give businesses ample time to replacepermanent signs.
"We're not looking to put anyone out of business," he said. "We're just looking to gradually improve the county."
Neall said he isn't sure if enforcing the law will mean more zoning enforcement sweeps like the one along Benfield corridor earlier this month, when 16 businesses were cited and told to get rid of illegal banners and signs.
"Before we invest the time to enforce this, we want to get people to do it voluntarily," he said.