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Billboard proposal discussed at hearing

September 23, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Wanda Dittmann said she sees "ugliness" daily in the form of a large billboard recently erected near her historic home along Sharpsburg Pike near Hagerstown.

Dittmann testified during a public hearing Monday night that she's glad Washington County has drafted a proposal that would control the number of billboards going up and limit their sizes, among other restrictions.

The County Commissioners and the Washington County Planning Commission held the public hearing on the proposal.

Included in the proposal is a "cap and replace" provision, under which a billboard could not be erected in the county unless another was removed.

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If adopted, the changes would be part of the county's zoning ordinance.

Four people spoke in favor of the proposed restrictions while two testified against the proposal.

Dittmann said she and her husband bought a home in the county because of the area's beauty.

"I really am pleased to see that you are trying to correct (this) ugliness ..." she said.

Jim Laird, president of Citizens For the Protection of Washington County, said he would prefer that the county ban billboards outright.

He said the large outdoor signs create "an ugly clutter along highways."

"There's no good place for a sign," Laird said. "They're ugly anywhere you put them."

But Douglas Wright, president of the billboard company Advertising Inc., said the proposed restrictions would negatively affect his business.

"I'm sort of fighting for my business," Wright testified.

Wright took issue with some of the restrictions that would be placed on billboards, including the proposed size limit on the signs.

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 has been in effect.

"This is an ordinance that has gone too far," Wright said.

In May, Wright told the County Commissioners that his company has 105 billboards in the county, 55 inside county limits and 50 in Hagerstown.

The proposal also includes allowing only billboards with two faces and banning the signs from being erected within 500 feet of an adjacent property that is zoned for or contains hospitals, nursing homes, schools or other human-care institutions, among other restrictions.

Wright said his company didn't have problems with parts of the proposal, such as allowing billboards to have only two faces and prohibiting the signs from being built near historic places.

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