Billboard ordinance hearing set for tonight

September 20, 2004|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Clamping down on billboards in Washington County, planning officials want to prohibit the large outdoor signs from going up unless the same number are taken down.

They have created a proposal, which would be part of the Sign Ordinance, that aims to put a cap on the number of billboards in the county and also redirect the signs to appropriate areas. The proposal states that a new billboard could not be erected in Washington County unless another one was removed.

Washington County Commissioners and the Washington County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing today, during which members of the public will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about the billboard proposal. The hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Courtroom 1 of the Washington County Courthouse.


"The amendments proposed for the Sign Ordinance are an attempt to meet the needs of the business and advertising community, while still maintaining the aesthetic value of Washington County's viewshed and the quality of life its citizens expect," according to a report by Associate Planner Jill Baker.

One County Commissioner, John C. Munson, said he opposes the proposal.

"I think it's going to hurt business," Munson said Friday. "Business has to have all the advertising they can get if they want to survive."

Munson said it sounds like the Planning Department is listening to "special-interest groups" that oppose billboards over businesses.

"I haven't heard the ordinary people say they want these eliminated," he said. "I haven't heard a business tell me that, either."

Jim Laird, president of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County, has said publicly that "a billboard of any size is an unsightly and unnecessary eyesore on any highway."

The proposal also includes limiting the size of billboards and where they can be located, among other restrictions.

According to the proposal, all sign faces on a billboard combined would not be allowed to exceed 350 square feet, a decrease from the 1,000-square-foot regulation that currently is allowed. No billboard would be permitted to have more than two faces, or be located within 500 feet of an adjacent property that is zoned for or contains dwellings, hospitals, nursing homes, schools or other human-care institutions.

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