Commissioners might bring back panel to revamp county `gateways'

April 11, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The Carroll Commissioners said yesterday they hope to revive a dormant committee that was formed two years ago to spruce up major entry points to the county such as the Route 140 corridor through Finksburg.

The commissioners said they want more attractive landscaping along borders with other counties and better sign maintenance along major roads, but they said they were not sure exactly what they want the panel to do. They said they are not interested in an all-out war on billboards or on creating strict aesthetic standards for county businesses.

"We wouldn't want to send the committee on a wild goose chase," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich. "Whenever you get into telling businesses what their facades have to look like, you're giving something like this the kiss of death."

County Chief of Staff Steven Powell said he would return to the commissioners in about two weeks with a recommended mission statement for the committee. Several members who attended yesterday's meeting said they look forward to renewing their work.

"I think given the time to do the job, we can come back with a very well-founded report," said committee chairman Donald Hoffman, a Finksburg resident.

The seven-member "gateway" committee, which met throughout 2001 and in early last year, submitted a report to county officials, but the previous board of commissioners never acted on the panel's suggestions. The volunteer committee has not met in more than a year, but residents said throughout last year's commissioner campaign that they wanted more attractive entrances to the county.

In his presentation yesterday calling for the committee's revival, county zoning Administrator Neil Ridgely argued that tourists and prospective business owners do not get the best image of Carroll when they enter via Route 140 or Liberty Road.

The gateway committee's report last year included a suggestion that the county place a moratorium on new billboards, an idea criticized by many business owners and greeted warily by the previous and current boards of commissioners.

The county faces a dilemma because many of its approximately 350 billboards were installed before zoning laws. Even if those signs are too tall, too close to the road or on an inappropriate type of property, such as farmland, the county cannot force a change.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said yesterday that the county should add flowers and spiffier signs to its entry points before worrying about the billboard issue.

"I think that's really the first step in the right direction," she said.

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