Council bans neon signs in Historic District 8-1 vote seeks to protect area ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

August 10, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

The Annapolis City Council last night banned neon business signs in the city's quaint Historic District, a move that will affect an estimated 21 businesses.

The council approved the measure, 8-1. Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat who feared the action would hurt shopkeepers' ability to attract patrons, opposed it.

The legislation prohibits all interior neon signs that can be viewed from the street, which would affect such businesses as Chick & Ruth's Delly on Main Street and Buddy's Crabs & Ribs.

Exterior neon signs will be acceptable, but only if the Historic District Commission finds them "an integral part of the exterior design." Only one business in the district, the Subway sandwich shop on Maryland Avenue, has approval from the commission for an exterior neon sign.

The legislation will go into effect after it is signed by Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, which is expected this week or next. But Russell T. Morgan Jr., chief of the city's Bureau of Inspections and Permits, expected some "reasonable time" to comply with the new law.

The Historic District encompasses the series of streets that fan out from State and Church circles.

Mr. Gilmer said the move would "hamstring" businesses, but Alderman Theresa DeGraff, a Ward 7 Republican, said businesses like the fact that the Historic District is "quaint."

Alderman Ellen Moyer, a Democrat from Ward 8, said there was no opposition to the legislation from business groups.

In other business, the council was informed that the city paid $106,000 through June 30 to the Baltimore law firm of Piper & Marbury for legal fees, including $82,000 on contract negotiations with the city's unions. The city had budgeted $15,000 for union negotiations, said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who moved to cap the legal fees once the total figure is known.

In an unrelated matter yesterday, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner denied a request by city firefighters to block the city from instituting new work rules, including promotion procedures, scheduling changes, and removing lieutenants and captains from the collective bargaining unit.

The city imposed the rules two weeks ago after reaching an impasse with the unions on contract talks. William W. Thompson II, an attorney for the firefighters, said the city violated the constitutional rights of the firefighters by imposing such rules.

But City Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson said the rules were necessary to allow city government to continue functioning while contract talks continued.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen city police officers protested outside the council building last night.

Sgt. John Mellon, shop steward for the police union, said he expects the 82-member force to endorse the independent mayoral candidacy of Dennis M. Callahan, a former one-term Democratic mayor, tomorrow.

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