Local officials keeping their eyes on the signs

April 13, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Elected officials in Franklin County, Pa., are making moves they say will protect the safety of motorists and reduce visual clutter by adjusting rules that govern signs.

Several municipalities are specifically trying to decide if they want to permit flashing, scrolling, digital and electronic signs. Some are seeking to govern how often those messages may change.

While shaping the digital future of their communities, many of the officials are taking another look at the rules for billboards and temporary signs like those for yard sales, home sales and tobacco products at the convenience store.

"Every business owner who opens a business has to put a sign out to communicate," said MaryBeth Hockenberry, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce.


In the Waynesboro area, both the Chamber of Commerce and a citizens advisory board are working on reports on what should be included in the sign regulations.

The Waynesboro Borough Council drafted a sign ordinance that spelled out sign requirements in greater detail than the ordinance in place today. Now, the council has put the proposed ordinance on hold as it awaits a report from the Chamber of Commerce's 15-member signs task force.

"We always hear that the business community doesn't speak up. We're trying to speak up. We're trying to be proactive," Hockenberry said.

One of the council's primary goals was to clean up the section of the existing ordinance that states there "shall be no illumination of a flashing, intermittent or moving type, except for those displaying time and temperature." The council and planning commission discovered there was no element of time associated with the "intermittent" factor when CVS Pharmacy applied for its free-standing sign with electronic message board.

Electronic signs are allowed in the Borough of Greencastle under certain circumstances and depending on zone, Borough Manager Ken Myers said.

"It can't be constantly scrolling or flashing, but they can have a digital sign that changes messages," Myers said.

The Greencastle Borough Council "may revisit the digital sign issue; I'm not sure. It has been briefly discussed," Myers said.

The Chambersburg Borough Council has scheduled a public hearing for May 22 regarding what it refers to as "flashing light signs" - those that use "flashing, scrolling or intermittent lights to form or light a sign message."

New provisions for flashing light signs, defined as changing more than once in 15 seconds, would prohibit them within 200 feet of an intersection and 100 feet of a residential district, according to the draft ordinance.

The Antrim Township Supervisors are expected to review electronic, flashing and digital signs in the near future, and the Washington Township Planning Commission is reviewing a draft ordinance to pass onto the supervisors in that municipality.

The draft ordinance in Washington Township was described Monday as a "wish list" developed by the planning commission and a citizens advisory board. Solicitor John Lisko advised the planning commission that it might be a good idea to make the provisions applicable to some, but not all, of the zones.

He also expressed concerns regarding the advisory board's proposal to make the new rules applicable to existing signs. Lisko said that would create a problem because the signs are considered personal property and have a monetary value.

The Washington Township proposal is under review by Lisko. Public comment is encouraged at the next planning commission meeting May 8.

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