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Law to restrict billboards

December 03, 1998

Billboard lawBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




A new law setting standards and charging permit fees for new billboards in Hagerstown could be in effect by March.

City Council members are expected to vote whether to introduce a revamped proposal of the city's sign law on Dec. 22, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Tuesday.

This version does not ban new billboards and grandfathers in existing billboards, officials said.

City officials have been discussing ways to restrict billboards since August after receiving complaints from residents about an increase in the number of new billboards.

The complaints were specifically about billboards Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising, of Fayetteville, Pa., owns on South Burhans and East Wilson boulevards.

Most of the billboards in the city are owned or rented by GS Images, of Hagerstown. That firm owns 44 advertising spaces on 21 different structures within the city limits.

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Doug Wright, president and co-owner of GS, had expressed concern about existing billboards being included in the proposal. The previous proposal included landscaping regulations that Wright said several of his signs wouldn't meet because they were on small parcels of land.

The landscaping regulations in the new proposal are more flexible, said Planning Director Ric Kautz.

Under the proposal, permits would be needed for billboards and other signs that advertise a business at a different location than where the sign stands. Permits would be required only for signs built after the proposal is approved.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein wanted to know if the proposal would forbid the new sign for a mortgage firm that is attached to the side of a building at the intersection of East Franklin Street and North Cannon Avenue.

Kautz said the new sign would be grandfathered because it was installed before the proposed sign law could go into effect.

New sign owners who don't get a permit could be fined $100 for the first violation and $200 for each following day until a permit is received.

Council members decided not to prohibit changeable signs since Wright said he didn't think they would be economically viable in this community for several years.

Signs that would be banned under the proposal include rooftop signs and signs attached to semi-truck trailers. Owners of those signs would have five years to remove them before the ban became effective.

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