Realtors object to sign restrictions Proposal would limit open houses in Hampstead to Sunday afternoons

December 17, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A proposal to strengthen restrictions on the placement and design of signs in Hampstead has local Realtors worried that the new regulations could hurt business.

The proposed ordinance would affect all businesses in town, but members of the real estate industry have been the most vocal in opposing the changes.

Provisions in the measure would limit the use of open-house signs and ban the directional signs frequently used in real estate advertising.

Real estate professionals are particularly concerned about a provision that would restrict open houses to Sundays between noon and dusk. They argue that Saturday is also a popular day for open houses, and say that open houses held during the week for real estate agents only are an effective home-selling tool.

"The [home] sellers deserve as much traffic as possible to their open houses," said Stanley Dill, manager of the O'Conor Piper & Flynn real estate office in Hampstead.

Real estate agents also worry that the absence of directional signs could cause problems.

"If people can't find your house, you're not going to sell it," said Robert L. Tabler Jr., president of the Carroll County Association of Realtors. "I've lived in Carroll County my whole life and I don't know all the nooks and crannies with all the new subdivisions."

Tabler said he has offered to work with Hampstead officials and council members as they consider the sign ordinance.

"I think they've got to be reasonable, and we have to be responsible, too, as Realtors and not have signs up all the time," Tabler said.

Hampstead's town manager, Neil Ridgely, has led the effort to overhaul the town's sign laws, which weren't enforced for many years.

For 18 months, a committee of residents, town officials and business owners has worked to draft a new ordinance. The goal, Ridgely said, is to have signs that are "neater, smaller and more attractive."

He said town officials will likely consider amendments that pertain to real estate advertising, especially the provision that bans open houses on Saturdays.

"What they don't seem to have an understanding of is the cumulative effect that a number of these signs have," Ridgely said of Realtors. "The town has to look at the mosaic of all the signs and the appearance of the town, not just the interests of a specific industry."

Under the sign proposal, pennants, inflatable signs and banners would be illegal. The ordinance would encourage the use of small sandwich boards, awnings and canopies.

The proposal calls for the elimination of billboards and illegal signs over five years.

The revision of Hampstead's sign laws is part of the town's effort to create a more attractive Main Street for retailers and visitors.

Last year, the town hired a Towson consulting firm to develop a comprehensive revitalization plan for the downtown district.

"It has to offer an ambience which malls don't and can't have," Ridgely said. "Merchants have to participate by making their stores attractive."

Chris Cavey, a businessman and the Hampstead Business Association's liaison with the Town Council, said the sign committee has made an effort to work with the business community.

"Yes, it's going to hurt some businesses in town because they'll have to replace signs, but it's much more business-friendly than anti-business," said Cavey, who owns the Nationwide insurance office and Eagle Embroidery in Hampstead.

The town planning and zoning commission will discuss the proposed sign ordinance at 7 p.m. Dec. 29.

Pub Date: 12/17/97

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