2 criticize plan to tighten sign rules Taneytown considers citizen-drafted proposal

August 06, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

A Taneytown liquor store owner and a commercial landlord spoke out against proposed regulations on advertising signs at a City Council work session yesterday.

Several council members called for a more permissive approach to business signs, indicating that they might override some of the recommendations of a citizens committee that has been working for six months to draft regulations.

The council is expected to discuss the proposed regulations Sept. 14. The council plans a public hearing before voting on the regulations, which would amend the existing sign ordinance.

"What the committee was trying to do was to strike a balance," said Councilman James Wieprecht, who worked with the citizens group. He said the committee sought to allow signs "big enough to let people know what's going on, but not so big that people would find it offensive."

The owner of Taney House Spirits, who refused to give her name, argued against the proposal to restrict banners and to limit window signs to 25 percent of window space.

She said she routinely uses a banner across the front of the store with hanging pennants and window signs that cover 75 percent of the window.

"You put one [sign] in for Coors, you put one in for Bud, look how much of my window is covered," she said.

When Wieprecht suggested that one reason to restrict window signs is to allow police officers to see the interior during nonbusiness hours, the liquor store owner replied that she has a night light.

"The police can see clear through to my beer cooler," she said.

Oliver Glass, owner of several commercial properties, said he has business tenants who would be hurt by a 25 percent limit on window signs.

"I don't think we have storefronts that look that terrible," he said.

Council members Henry C. Heine Jr. and Brian M. Etzler favored easing the existing ordinance's ban on searchlights.

Searchlights should be permitted for business celebrations, Etzler said. "I don't care if it's fireworks, strobe lights, whatever, for a celebration."

Complaints led to panel

Impetus for changing the regulations came from residents' complaints that the streetscape was beginning to look cluttered. Signs of various shapes and sizes proliferated as businesses moved into town during the past few years.

Advised by City Attorney Thomas F. Stansfield that the existing ordinance was too vague to be enforced effectively, the City Council asked a citizens committee to draft specific regulations. The committee began its work six months ago.

Separate downtown rules

The proposed regulations would distinguish the downtown business district from other com- mercial and industrial zones.

As written, the regulations would let businesses in the downtown district choose flat, free-standing or projecting signs, but they would be limited to 24 square feet, smaller than signs that would be allowed in other commercial and industrial areas.

Outside the central district, businesses would be allowed 2 square feet of sign for each foot of building frontage. The owner of a 15-foot-wide building, for example, could have a 30-square-foot sign.

Merchants in any commercial or industrial area of the city would be allowed to augment their signs with portable sandwich board signs, which are barred under the existing ordinance.

The committee proposed limiting advertising in residential areas to home-business signs no larger than 2 square feet.

Pub Date: 8/06/98

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