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Debate centers on sign rules in Washington Township

June 15, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Washington Township, Pa.
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WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Washington Township, Pa., staff and planning commission members debated sign regulations on Monday, nearly three years after the township supervisors adopted the rules.

Matt Watson, the township's code enforcement officer, presented the planning commission with a draft of ways he's attempted to clarify and simplify the sign code's provisions.

The concept of roof signs prompted discussion about what is appropriate for neighborhood aesthetics. Roof signs were left out of the ordinance adopted in July 2007.

Planner Elena Kehoe reminded the board the exclusion was done on purpose, and she said Watson's suggestion of a 32-square-foot sign could be too high.

"I think it's the height of a sign on a roof that makes it a nuisance, especially in neighborhood commercial" zones, she said.

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The planning commission preliminarily agreed on draft regulations that roof signs can't be higher than the roof peak or four feet higher than the highest eaves. They also said the signs shouldn't be larger than 32 square feet.

Watson suggested a continued outright exclusion could lead to hardships, citing the case of a coin-operated laundry in Rouzerville, Pa., that didn't have room for ground signs or wall signs.

His suggestions clashed with some of the planning commission members' opinions when the discussion centered on flashing, electronic signs. Most of the signs are permitted to change messages every five seconds under current code.

He said the rule is hard to enforce.

"We don't want to look like some cheap, tinhorn Nevada town with lights flashing all the time," Kehoe said.

Lisa Donohoe, planning commission chairwoman, said frequently changing signs can be a distraction to motorists.

The planning commission looked at draft regulations for off-premise signs, with a suggestion that nonprofit and municipal organizations be allowed to have signs off their properties. Officials said the township supervisors had talked about installing an informational sign at the intersection of Pa. 16 and North Welty Road, only to discover they weren't permitted under their code.

Another possible change to the sign code would be allowing a business only one ground or pole sign.

Watson made notes on some of the suggested revisions so that he can incorporate them into a new draft for the planners' review.

Editor's note: This story was edited Thursday, June 17, to correct a source's error regarding how frequently electronic signs are permitted to change messages.

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