County cracking down on builders' signs

October 24, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Howard Libit contributed to this article.

Spurred by residents' complaints, Howard County and the state have begun cracking down on homebuilders to control the proliferation of real estate directional signs that dot roadsides on weekends.

As a result, the county Home Builders Association is attempting to marshal its membership into compliance with state and county laws that limit the number of signs and their placement.

"It's in everyone's interest to limit their signs," said Howard Saslow, president of the county Home Builders Association. "If builders continue to flagrantly violate the law, the County Council may come back and say 'No signs at all.' "

In its crackdown, the county has fined one builder for violating the county sign law -- Ryan Homes, a well-known company in the Baltimore area.

David Hammerman, director of the county's Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits, said the county wants the problem curbed but will not be overzealous in enforcement.

"We're not looking to ticket people going 56 in the 55-mph zone. We're looking for the people going 90, the flagrant violator," he said.

County inspectors found in recent surveys of areas where resident complaints have been high that some builders had erected as many as 20 directional signs for homes in just one development.

During the survey, the county found that most builders erected between four and 10 of the temporary signs, he said.

"One of the big complaints we get is about builders who set up more than one sign in the exact same spot," said James Rawle, county sign code administrator.

Inspectors found that there were about nine builders who consistently violated the sign law. It has since notified them of the crackdown.

"Generally, we are seeing a good level of understanding about this from the building community," Mr. Hammerman said.

The county has been averaging 40 citizen complaints a week recently about the signs cluttering roadsides on weekends, particularly in Elkridge and Ellicott City.

County law prohibits builders from stationing more than four directional signs to each development site.

The signs may be placed in county-owned rights of way only between 4 p.m. Friday and noon Monday. If there is a holiday on Monday, the signs may stay until noon Tuesday.

As for state law, it bans any type of signs from being placed in state-owned rights of way.

Ryan was cited for having 11 of the temporary directional signs for one development site, Mr. Hammerman said.

The county fined Ryan $550 for the signs directing homebuyers to a development on Ducketts Lane in Elkridge during the Oct. 1 weekend.

Kevin Kirwin of Ryan's Howard County division did not return phone calls Friday to comment.

Mr. Hammerman said Ryan was notified that the county had received complaints about the company's signs and was

advised that the county planned to survey major roads to ensure that builders were complying with the law.

"Obviously for some builders, they would just as soon risk the fine and get buyers to their sites," Mr. Saslow said. "But that is not what we want our membership to be doing. We've got to play ball with the county."

The Home Builders Association, he said, has sent notices to its members and conducted several meetings to get builders to control their use of the temporary signs.

Mr. Hammerman, the county administrator, said state highway administrators have told him they, too, are concerned about the proliferation of the builders' signs in state-owned rights of way and that state road crews have been instructed to remove them.

Howard County is the second county in the Baltimore area to be hit with citizen complaints about the directional signs.

Baltimore County has had so many complaints that council Chairman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III wants to set up a committee to deal with the controversy.

In Baltimore County, the signs are illegal.

County builders have been attempting to get legislation introduced that would allow builders to erect some signs on county property and rights of way.

The Baltimore County Planning Board recently recommended against making any changes in current regulations prohibiting the signs.

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