Draft Signage Regulations Overview

Linda Kelley is DACCA’s primary representative to the signage committee and this is her report on the draft regulations to date.

Background – Commissioners established ad hoc committee and invited organizations to nominate a representative to sit on the committee.   I was selected as the DACCA representative, and Jen Armstrong was appointed as the alternate.     I have attended these meetings since 2014, as has Ms. Armstrong.

The purpose was to re-write the signage regulations and to consider changes to existing regs.

Each town center has its own set of guidelines for signage.

For instance, in Dunkirk, no internally lit signs are permitted, but they are permitted in certain sub-districts in Prince Frederick.

Representatives at the meeting included reps from town centers, sign companies, so. Md. Board of realtors, architectural review committees from town centers (these are the folks who review proposed signage and make recommendations).    Bob Arscott is the representative from the Dunkirk Architectural Review Committee.

The proposed regulations are 28 pages long, and include a separate section for each Town Center.

Obviously, we are unable to go over each chapter and verse, but I would like to share some of the highlights and low lights with you.

1.  Entire county —  Draft regs say that NO signs, other than governmental signs, permitted on government property.

a.  I questioned about currently approved signage at Dunkirk Park (and other sites in the County).   Working well, non-commercial – neat/tidy appearance/guidelines issued and work.  Staff will take another look at this one.

2.  Rolling billboards – Trucks which have no other function than to act as a sign.   The primary function of these motorized billboards is signage advertising, in order to circumvent the exiting limits on signage.    They have no other function, unlike commercial vehicles that are “wrapped” or have the business name on the vehicle.

a.  I asked staff to take another look at this, and to resurrect the already-written but not enacted text addressing this one.   Mr. Barnett, Director of Building and Community Development agreed that he would.

b.  Jen Armstrong challenged that rolling billboards placed off-site in another location on private property  cannot be controlled by the County because they are placed on privately owned property (another shopping center), and it would be up to the property owner to have it removed.   The Director said under current law the County can regulate off-site signs.

c.  The Realtor representative also challenged this and cited a pending case recently heard by the Supreme Court.   A decision is expected in June 2015.

3.  Temporary signs – Signs long roadsides are prohibited by State law in the state ROW.   A prior BOCC approved an informal (and without State permission) policy that temporary signs could be placed on the roadsides on Friday night as long as they are removed by Sunday night.

We have seen, in Dunkirk, as well as county-wide, a proliferation of these signs.

Recently in Dunkirk, the Mattress Store, on a 3-day weekend, had 35 signs out on the median, roadside and in the shopping center.

Another current violator is the temporary office of H&R Block, who had signs about 1 foot apart, the length of that entire strip shopping center.

4.  Permitted signage for a shopping center.  Currently, the permitted signage is based on the length of the frontage of the shopping center.  The county is proposing to increase the amount of signage permitted for a shopping center based on length.    There is also in the draft a proposal to increase the height of the monument sign at a shopping center.    I personally have no objection to those changes.

5.  Window coverage with interior signs.    Ms. Armstrong queried as to why the limit of 25% coverage is in the regulations.   Mr. Barnett responded that input from the Sheriff and deputies was, in part, the basis for that restriction.    When doing business checks after hours they need to be able to see inside the business.   Also, the shopping public likes to see inside the store from the outside.

6.  Electronic signage.   This very controversial proposal was the subject of much discussion.

The draft regulations would permit electronic signs and govern the amount of illumination, the frequency of message change, etc.  County staff acknowledged that each Town Center could be different in its acceptance of electronic signs, and that one size will not fit all town centers.  For instance, what might be acceptable in certain Prince Frederick sub-districts may not be appropriate for the entire PF town center (although the rep from the PF Architectural Review Committee has some concerns).

DACCA has gone on record (as has the Solomons Business Group), as being against electronic signs in their Town Center.    We currently do not permit internally lighted signs, and have spent decades cleaning up the signage in the town and bringing them into compliance.   Some were grandfathered, and we’ve had to wait until they were replaced before they had to comply.   As we are the gateway to the County, we have no desire to look like the Las Vegas strip.  We should not be taking a step backwards in this area.

Mr. Arscott, some months ago, conducted an informal poll of Dunkirk residents, who responded they were overwhelmingly against electronic signs here.   Ms. Armstrong noted that perhaps the responses were due to how the question was posed.   Perhaps Mr. Arscott could elaborate on that for us.

The future – we are now permitted to provide input on the current draft regulations which will be revised as needed based on current input.    DACCA will be providing those to the county to be included in the next draft.

Process — Once the draft is finalized, it must go first to the Planning Commission who will make recommendations to the County Commissioners.    A public hearing will be held, and comments permitted, before the Commissioners vote on it.

It is my sincere hope that the Commissioners, under the flag of being “business friendly,” do not throw the baby out with the bath water, and recreate eyesores that we have worked so diligently to eliminate.

Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes