Morgan County puts moratorium on advertising along scenic byway

May 15, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER


There's something new in the front yard of the Zahm home on U.S. 522 South in Morgan County and it's not a dogwood tree. It's a 40-foot, double-decker billboard.

The towering billboard in front of the home of Charles and Pam Zahm on U.S. 522 South was placed there by Nations Media of Winchester, Va.

The Zahms said the 25-year lease with Nations Media pays them $2,400 annually for the first 10 years, $2,600 for years 11 to 20 and $2,800 for years 21 to 25. The lease is renewable every five years.


Pam Zahm said the four lights that eventually will illuminate the signs are supposed to go on at dusk and go off at midnight. She said the sign in their yard "is not really a problem."

"I can live with it for now, but I didn't realize it would be this big," said Charles Zahm. "In five years I will get rid of it in case we want to sell our house."

Because more billboards are showing up in Morgan County, the Morgan County Commission on Wednesday placed a moratorium, effective immediately, on any off-premise advertising, not just billboards, on the Washington Heritage Trail National Scenic Byway in Morgan County, said Commissioner Bob Ford.

The trail includes part of U.S. 522 South to Fish Hatchery Road, and loops around Rock Gap and Cold Run Valley roads; all of W.Va. 9 East and W.Va. 9 West to Paw Paw, W.Va.; and U.S. 522 North to the edge of town, he said.

Jeanne Mozier, president of the trustees of the Washington Heritage Trail, said the planning and research department and scenic byway department of the West Virginia Department of Highways "are currently looking into their interpretation of the law to regulate outdoor advertising on national scenic byways."

Ford said the 180-day moratorium will allow time to determine what can be done to ban or limit advertising. He said the commission does not have the authority.

"We can't regulate signs; there is no zoning in place," Ford said.

Ford said the commissioners issued a directive to the Morgan County Planning Commission on Wednesday "to learn what we can do to regulate signs countywide. We need a permitting process, and they are to advise us within the next six months."

Alma Gorse, county planner, said when she saw the sign in front of the Zahm home on U.S. 522, she took a photo and sent it to the state highway departments working on outdoor advertising signage.

"Something has to be done," she said.

Morgan County Commission President Glen Stotler said the moratorium does not apply to those signs that have already been approved. Two billboards are in the process of being erected on U.S. 522 South and on W.Va. 9 East, he said.

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