Council tables sign ordinance

March 11, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

Council tables sign ordinance

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Only two downtown Shepherdstown businesses, both restaurants, welcome patrons with small neon "open" signs in their windows.

But if a new law proposed by the Town Council is passed, the signs will have to come down.

The council Tuesday night tabled a final reading of an amendment to an existing ordinance governing signs. The ordinance allows signs illuminated by incandescent or fluorescent lights, but makes no specific reference to neon. If adopted, the amendment would outlaw neon.

Affected would be the owners of Los Amigo Amy's, a Mexican restaurant at 120 W. German St., and the China Kitchen at the corner of German and King streets.

If the amendment passes, they would have five years to remove their neon signs, said Mayor Vince Parmesano. "We don't want to cause a hardship for anyone. Five years would let them amortize the cost of the signs," he said.


The flap began with another local restaurateur, Raymond Staubs, owner of Tony's Pizza Den at 126 E. German St. Staubs put a large neon sign in the front window of his establishment when it opened a year ago. Before that, he ran his business for eight years in rented space at 120 W. German St., where Los Amigo Amy's is now.

Staubs said he bought the building at 126 E. German St. last year.

"I've had that sign for eight years and I intend to keep it. I own this building and I feel I can do what I want with it," he said.

The council considers Staubs' agreement to move it from an inside wall near the window as a compromise and won't bother him again, Parmesano said.

Meredith Waite, co-owner of a craft gallery on East German Street, is president of the Shepherdstown Business Association. She said the association has not taken a position on the neon issue.

She sells neon sculptures in her store, several pieces of which help light up her front windows at night. The mayor said they are considered art, not signs, and the shop will not be affected by the ordinance.

"Neon signs are fine in Shepherdstown as long as they are maintained in good taste," Waite said. "We don't want to be like Las Vegas, but what is garish to one person is not garish to others."

Joseph Mathews, co-owner of an upscale antique shop on West German Street, said a "restrained amount of neon is not offensive. It's part of life."

Parmesano said the amendment may be revised once more before it's adopted to allow small neon signs like those hanging in both restaurants.

The council amended an unrelated ordinance Tuesday night to allow small satellite television dishes to be installed in homes and businesses in the historic district as long as they don't exceed half a meter in width and are not visible from the front.

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