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Business community puts brakes
 on sign review

Richard Fulton
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(11/20) A number of members of the business community and local residents spoke up at the Oct. 30 planning and zoning commission meeting about problems they perceived with the town's sign ordinance revision, especially as it relates to businesses.

The planning commission and the board of commissioners have been struggling since the 2005 town election with revisions proposed for the existing sign ordinance after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened action over the town's political sign restrictions.

With input from town Attorney John R. Clapp and planning consultant Christopher Jakubiak, and after several rounds, the planning commission submitted draft sign changes to the board of commissioners for their Sept. 18 meeting, only to have them referred back once again, this time to allow for business community input.

Signs of progress

Addressing what some perceive to be overly-restrictive commercial sign regulations on the books, Libby Briggs, wife of local realtor Donald Briggs, told the board there are 20 to 25 businesses in Emmitsburg who are "struggling and need signage and parking. Signage brings the people in."

Robert Rosensteel Sr., Rosensteel Photography Studio, agreed, stating, "It's about what we can do as a community government to promote business here." He said home businesses should also be permitted to have some form of sign in the yards promoting what they do.

Antiques Folly owner Dora Connelly pointed out on behalf of the Antique Mall that many visitors to town cannot even locate the establishment because there are no directional signs. Antique Mall owner Philip Postelle noted that if a business is not located on either Main Street or Seton Avenue, "You have no chance to be found."

Main Streets Sweets co-owner Wendy Glass said that her business opens when it's still dark out. But current signage regulations do not allow for signs that can be readily seen in the dark. Although Glass has an "Open" flag hanging in front of the shop, she noted, "Lots of people have flags out. A flag doesn't bring attention."

Under the current sign ordinance, Main Street Sweets could get a permit to put out a temporary sign for 45 days, but, once the first 45 days expired, they would have to wait another 30 days before they could put it out again.

A sign of the times

Little discussion took place about the commission's original task, revising the way the ordinance addressed political signage, except for comments made by resident Harold C. Craig Jr., who had brought on the ACLU complaint against the town.

Craig stated, "You know how I stand on political signs," adding that, in fact, "I'm opposed to any sign ordinance at all."

Craig, who ran for a seat on the board of commissioners in 2005, had objected to the portion of the sign ordinance that related to size of campaign signs. He gained a victory when the town backed down from enforcing the sign regulations, but lost in the election.

The proposed ordinance will remain before the planning and zoning commission for continued work. Unless a special work session is announced, the next regular meeting of the planning and zoning commission will be Nov. 27, at 7:30 p.m., in the town meeting room, Community Center, 300A S. Seton Ave.

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