Billboard moratorium mulled

May 05, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

Washington County won't accept requests for new billboards while it considers whether to impose a three-month ban, the County Commissioners decided Tuesday.

A moratorium is being considered to give the Planning Commission time to propose stricter rules on the location and size of future billboards.

A public hearing on the moratorium is scheduled for May 25.

Officials became concerned that current billboard laws might be too permissive when they received a request for a billboard on the east side of Sharpsburg Pike south of Hagerstown across from Conservit, said Commissioner James Kercheval.


The Planning Commission denied the application because the site is outside the area to which the county is trying to direct growth.

But the planners' decision could be overturned because the county's billboard regulations don't prohibit billboards in that area, Kercheval said.

"We had very little ability to say no to that," he said.

Existing county law allows billboards of up to 1,000 square feet, which is nearly twice the size of some of the large billboards on Dual Highway outside Hagerstown.

The county should craft billboard regulations that are similar to regulations in the city, Commissioner Doris Nipps said.

The commissioners voted 4-1 to move forward with the public hearing. A final vote is forthcoming.

To prevent billboard companies from trying to beat the moratorium, the commissioners decided not to accept any new applications as of Tuesday. Companies wishing to erect billboards can apply for exemptions.

Commissioner John Munson voted no, saying he's afraid the move would hurt businesses.

He said the county's building moratorium in rural areas was supposed to be revisited in April but still was in effect.

Kercheval said a temporary ban would not be detrimental. The county receives new billboard applications at the rate of about one every eight months, he said.

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