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Business owner seeks permission to place sign closer to Md. 34

Lawmakers have filed a bill allowing state to grant permits for certain signs in a right of way

February 07, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Pete Anderson owns Agape Pet Services along Md. 34, west of Boonsboro. Maryland requires signs that aren't traffic-related to be at least 150 feet from the road's right of way. He has a temporary - and illegal, he concedes - business sign in that right of way, but he needs to have something near the road.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Peter W. Anderson’s pet-cremation business, Agape Pet Services, is set back from Md. 34, maybe a few hundred yards into the woods.

His dilemma is how to make sure customers can see it from the road.

An obstacle for Anderson is the state’s 150-foot road right of way. He has a temporary — and illegal, he concedes — business sign in that right of way, but he needs to have something near the road.

The right of way on Md. 34 is so wide because the state, at one time, envisioned widening the road, Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, said.

But if that’s only a possibility, many years in the future, Serafini wondered, why not let someone place a sign there now?

Serafini has filed a bill that might help Anderson by allowing the state to grant permits for certain signs in a right of way.

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Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, has filed the same version in the Senate. Both bills are scheduled to be heard on Feb. 21.

The Maryland State Highway Administration doesn’t comment on pending legislation, spokeswoman Kellie Boulware said, but she confirmed the details Anderson described.

It’s possible that the 150-foot right of way was obtained years ago with the idea that Md. 34 might be widened, Boulware said. However, there’s been no talk about it in the last dozen or so years.

The SHA has long prohibited signs that aren’t traffic-related in its rights of way. The law changed last year to add a $25 fine, which counties or municipalities can collect if they enforce it.

Boulware said the SHA gave a three-month grace period from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. The provision allowing fines went into effect on Jan. 1.

Although Anderson said the SHA told him he had to leave another 25 feet of buffer after the 150 foot right of way, Boulware said someone can put a sign on his or her property just outside the right of way.

Agape Pet Services, between Boonsboro and Keedysville, cremates pet remains — small animals and horses, Anderson said.

His business partner is Dr. Daniel A. Franklin, a veterinarian.

Anderson said the name Agape is a Greek biblical term describing unconditional love. The business’s sign reads “love without limits” and “Easing the loss of your pet with integrity & compassion.”

The business opened in 2003 and moved to its current location in 2008, Anderson said.

He said his business finally can afford a larger sign, and he’d like it to be noticeable. If he’s allowed to put up a new sign, he’d take it down later if the SHA proceeds with a plan to widen Md. 34.

Now, he’s waiting to see if the government cracks down on his current business sign.

“They can take it down any day,” he said.

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