Prince Frederick, MD – Removing a controversial recommendation regarding electronic messaging centers(EMCs), the Calvert County Commissioners voted 4-to-1 Tuesday, Dec. 12 to adopt a revised sign ordinance. Regarding the EMCs, the board was unanimous in its decision to leave current regulations in place and pass the issue along to the next board for a final decision after the controversial proposal is further studied.
The finalization of the revised regulations—essentially eight ordinances combined into one—culminates a seven-year process. “It’s been out there a while,” said Department of Planning and Zoning Director Mark Willis. Commissioner Pat Nutter [R – District 2], who cast the lone voted against the Calvert County Planning Commission-recommended ordinance, noted that the issue was prompted by rhetoric from the 2010 election when numerous candidates for county commissioner labeled the county “business unfriendly.” Nutter, who worked as a code enforcement officer for county government and later the Town of North Beach, indicated he was not happy the ordinance’s provisions for temporary signs. “You’ll have signs everywhere,” Nutter predicted.
“We can come back and alter these regulations at any time,” Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl [R – At large] told Nutter and the other board members. Nutter still sustained his opposition to the ordinance.
The commissioners’ hearing room was virtually empty as principal planner Jenny Plummer-Welker gave the board an overview of what the Planning Commission had recommended. The commissioners appeared quite sanguine with the notion of punting on the decision to allow EMCs in virtually every commercial area of the county. In making the motion to defer, Commissioner Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3] stated the final decision should wait until June 2019. Hejl agreed, adding county government staff should study EMC policies in other jurisdictions.
Slaughenhoupt and Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1] both stated their belief that there likely wasn’t going to be a major proliferation of EMCs in the county if the measure was included in the approved ordinance. Hart estimated that EMCs were quite cost-prohibitive and “you’re not going to see people coming up with $40 to $50-thousand.”
While the proposed ordinance—especially the EMC component—was opposed by at least one citizens group on the premise that less signage restrictions would denigrate Calvert’s rural character, business organizations supported the changes. Neither side was present immediately after the vote was taken to weigh in on the decision.
“Signs are good for business,” Calvert County Chamber of Commerce President Robert Carepenter told TheBayNet.com after the vote was taken. “I appreciate all those who have worked on and commented on this ordinance over the past five years. The layout of the ordinance with charts and tables makes it very easy to figure out and understand what type of sign as well as the size and height of that sign is permissible in each part of the county.”
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