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Electronic signs draw fire at Waynesboro meeting

April 17, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Two dozen Waynesboro area residents didn't need a 32-square-foot sign on Wednesday to express their message: No electronic signs in the Borough of Waynesboro.

"We can draw new businesses to town, but we don't need those flashing signs," said Margaret Schmelzer, who owns a bed and breakfast on Pa. 16.

Many months have passed since the Waynesboro Planning Commission decided it needed to look at permitting electronic signs within the borough limits. The reason, the commission said, is that Pennsylvania case law says the signs cannot be prohibited outright.

However, the signs can be greatly restricted as far as locations, and the planning commission sought to do that by only allowing them in four very small sections of the town's outskirts. Those were on Pa. 16 west of Frick Avenue, Pa. 316 across from Allegheny Power, Pa. 997 north of King Street and the industrial section of State Hill Road.

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Councilman Ronnie Martin, who said he ran for council to promote pro-growth issues, had proposed an expanded area for electronic signs. On Wednesday, he clarified his proposal in saying that it would include the four original areas plus the general commercial areas around Waynesboro Mall, the corner of CV Avenue where Turkey Hill is being constructed, and Rutter's Farm Store and the Landis shopping center, both on South Potomac Street.

He agreed with the planning commission in saying that signs should not exceed 32 square feet.

The council president asked the mayor and each councilman to share thoughts about electronic signs. Councilmen Charles "Chip" McCammon and Ben Greenawalt declined.

Councilman C. Harold Mumma said he doesn't necessarily like the signs, but has started to consider the impact for businesses.

"In the past, council decisions have been made looking how things are today instead of planning for the future. ... We cannot annex any more land to increase our tax base in the borough," Mumma said.

"With this, I'll be voting with those people who have contacted me and said 'no' to those signs," Councilman Jason Stains said.

Council President Craig Newcomer said that instead of flashing signs, he would prefer aesthetically pleasing redevelopment like that of the old Sears building at Long Meadow Shopping Center in Hagerstown.

"I'd like to see that same type of addition and development in our community," Newcomer said.

Mayor Richard Starliper, who votes on matters when the six-person council reaches an impasse, weighed in with his feelings on the matter.

"Down the line, with promoting business, flashing signs are not going to help. ... If it comes to a 3-3 tie, I'll vote it down," Starliper said.

Schmelzer and other residents expressed concerns that allowing the flashing signs in some areas will set a precedent, causing the signs to encroach elsewhere in the future. Schmelzer talked about her Burgundy Lane Bed & Breakfast at 128 W. Main St.

"My business and the integrity of my business relies on the night's sleep (customers) get. ... We've changed the blinds three times already in the front room because of the lights there now," she said.

As Wednesday's meeting stretched past 10 p.m., the council put a hold on signs discussion until future meetings.

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