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County staff to develop temporary billboard ban

April 28, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County staff plan to work on an ordinance this week that would temporarily ban billboards from being erected in the county.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook directed the action on Tuesday, after Interim Planning Director Steve Goodrich asked the commissioners what they wanted to do about a Planning Commission recommendation that a ban be put into effect.

"We can go anywhere you want to go," Goodrich said. "We can be very strict. We can be very lenient."

The Planning Commission requested the ban after it reviewed a site plan earlier this month for a billboard outside the Urban Growth Area off Sharpsburg Pike, Commissioner James F. Kercheval has said.

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While billboards are allowed in that area off Sharpsburg Pike, the Planning Commission felt that was an inappropriate location for such a sign and rejected the site plan, Kercheval said.

An Urban Growth Area is a designated area where growth is encouraged.

The Planning Commission approved two billboards in the Urban Growth Area along the Dual Highway last year.

Goodrich said four more applications for billboards are under review by the planning department.

If approved, the moratorium on billboards would be in effect for 90 days, so the planning department has time to recommend changes that would tighten county regulations on where billboards could be located, the size of the signs, how they should be maintained and other restrictions.

A ban would prevent a rush from developers to submit billboard applications before the county considers more stringent regulations, county officials said.

Currently, the county's zoning ordinance allows outdoor advertising signs to be up to 1,000 square feet in some zoning districts, which is the equivalent of a billboard that's "10 feet tall and 100 feet long," Goodrich said.

Kercheval and Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said they were ready to approve a temporary ban on signs on Tuesday, but later agreed to hold off until the moratorium ordinance was drafted.

County Attorney Richard Douglas said he would have that draft ordinance prepared for next Tuesday's commissioners meeting.

Commissioner John C. Munson said he didn't support a moratorium on billboards, saying it would hurt businesses. He also said he didn't think the county was seeing an overwhelming number of billboard applications.

Munson also said that not all billboards are unpleasant to see.

"It's kind of nice riding to South Carolina and seeing 'South of the Border'" signs," Munson said.

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