Sign curbs may be eased Proposal aims to spare landmarks in Baltimore County

'A true compromise'

Planners also study compliance changes, other exemptions

July 06, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The Butcher's Barn bull, the Bel-Loc Diner's rooftop neon and the Fox car dealerships' perky red foxes -- all threatened by Baltimore County's efforts to eliminate the visual clutter of roadside signs -- may be spared bureaucratic banishment after all.

Seeking to restrict the size and number of signs along commercial corridors such as York and Joppa roads and Route 40 West, the county planning board two years ago proposed one of the strictest sign laws in the area -- one that would have outlawed a number of landmarks.

But now the planning office is recommending changes that would spare distinctive signs if the board finds them "significant."

The loophole is among a number of changes the planning staff is recommending to make the ordinance more palatable to business owners. Other suggested changes include extending the compliance time from 10 years to 15 years, eliminating a requirement that every permanent business sign include an address, dropping the ban on window signs and allowing stores without road frontage to have road-front signs.

The recommendations sidestep the issue of handling temporary real estate signs, though. A report on such off-premises signs will be prepared.

"The current proposal represents a true compromise," said Stuart Kaplow, head of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce's public affairs committee.

The staff suggestions have been sent to the planning board, which will discuss them at its meeting July 18. The board will send its revisions to the County Council.

Strictest in area

In 1994, the planning board sent to the County Council TC recommendations for one of the area's strictest sign ordinances and suggested giving businesses 10 years to comply.

It included several controversial elements, including a ban on signs extending above the roof -- which would have affected the Butcher's Barn in Parkville, the Bel-Loc diner at Loch Raven Boulevard and Joppa Road, and foxes perched above Fox car dealerships.

After holding a public hearing on the ordinance last year, the County Council asked the planning board to take another look at the proposed law. For the past several months, the planning staff and businesses have been working on a compromise.

Saving bull

For William Grose, owner of the Butcher's Barn, the most significant change is the provision that allows a business owner to petition the county to have signs declared significant.

That loophole should save the black fiberglass bull that has stood on the meat shop's roof for 25 years.

"It seems like a reasonable approach," Grose said.

Pub Date: 7/06/96

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