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Sign ordinance back on table

Richard D. L. Fulton

(10/15) The Emmitsburg sign ordinance is once again come under review by the board of commissioners as town staff proposed some additional changes pertaining to temporary signage.

The board was briefed on initial proposed changes by town Planner Sue Cipperly at the board’s October 7 meeting.

The changes are intended to add some clarification to regulations governing temporary signs used by businesses, event sponsors and non-profits.

Specifically, under the proposed changes, sign permits would only be required for "off-site" temporary signs, or signs posted on lands or locations other than those owned by the sign applicant.

Permits would no longer be required for temporary signage employed on the property of those displaying them, although they would still have to conform to rules governing size, quantity, and the total amount of square footage of coverage involved.

Non-residential temporary signs displayed, such as commercial signage, would only be permitted to be displayed on the property of the applicant "on which the business, profession, product, service, event, or other commercial activity is being sold, offered, or conducted."

Civic and non-profit organizations will be permitted to have up to four off-site temporary signs as long as each does not exceed 32 square feet.

Although civic and non-profit organizations would still be required to obtain a permit for off-site signs, they would not be charged for obtaining a permit.

Cipperly subsequently told the News-Journal the reason the staff felt compelled to generate some modifications to the existing sign ordinance was because "We had some complaints about the number of temporary signs at some locations in town."

She said, it’s been kind of an ongoing issue. So the ordinance needed to be clarified and brought it up to date, but we’re only addressing the temporary signage right now."

The town administrators have been struggling off and on with sign regulations since the 2005 town election which resident Harold Craig, Jr., who was then a candidate for town Board of Commissioners, lodged a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regarding municipal restrictions of political signs.

The ACLU sent a demand to city officials on Craig's behalf, asserting that enforcement of the ordinance, which carries a steep civil fine, be suspended during the election.

The sign ordinance was subsequently altered to the satisfaction of the ACLU, but the town administrator have occasionally revisited the ordinance to continue to re-tweak it since.

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