Council bills take aim at common nuisances

Proposals target illegal signs, overgrown lawns

April 26, 2006|By JOSH MITCHELL | JOSH MITCHELL,SUN REPORTER

They advertise, for example, for health insurance, skydiving and - oddly enough - junk removal.

They're illegal signs cluttering the medians of Baltimore County roads, and Donald Gerding said he has seen one too many of them.

"It's visual clutter," said Gerding, who lives in Rodgers Forge. "They distract you attention-wise driving."

Now, a proposal before the County Council would allow Gerding and others to take the law into their own hands - empowering them to take down the signs themselves.

The proposal is one of several before the council aimed at everyday occurrences, such as people soliciting donations at traffic lights and neighbors failing to cut their grass.

Also yesterday, the council discussed a proposal, unveiled three weeks ago, to give tax credits to senior citizens on fixed incomes.

County law prohibits the posting of posters, fliers and other advertisements on public property. But under county law, the only people who can remove the signs are county employees authorized by the county administrative officer.

A bill sponsored by Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, and Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, would allow residents to remove the signs. And another proposal by Kamenetz would impose a $500 civil penalty for posting an illegal sign. Currently, violators face a misdemeanor charge that carries a $500 criminal fine.

Kamenetz called the postings "the illegal sign equivalent of spam. I treat it like graffiti: If you don't eliminate it immediately, it keeps reappearing."

Other proposed legislation would allow county code enforcers to give citations without first issuing a correction notice. The citations are issued for residential and commercial zoning violations, which can include lawns with overgrown weeds and the storage of inoperative vehicles.

A representative of property managers and a representative of local real estate agents expressed concerns over the legislation, saying the issuing of correction notices is more likely to lead to violations being resolved voluntarily and with fewer expenses.

Under another proposal, people who solicit donations on public roads would be required to obtain permits from the county.

And a pilot program that requires landlords to register with the county, and subjects certain rental units to county inspection, would become permanent.

The council also discussed a proposal by Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican, to provide property tax credits for senior citizens on fixed incomes. The credits would be available to residents 65 or older who qualify for the state homeowner's property tax credit program. The credits would be worth a maximum $160 per household, and would cost the county about $300,000 in the first year.

Kamenetz suggested that the council hold off on considering the proposal until it reviews County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s proposed budget for fiscal 2007 next month. Smith has called for his own tax credit program for fixed-income residents, and Kamenetz and Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, have said the council will consider a cut in the property tax rate.

The council is to vote on all the bills at its meeting Monday.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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