Over 100 people—mostly business owners, realtors and government officials—attended a public sign forum held at the Calvert County Fairgrounds in Barstow. The subject of signs—both permanent and temporary—remains a touchy issue in rural Calvert County, a jurisdiction whose “Main Street,” Route 4, is a state road. The matter intensified this past fall when the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) began removing signs posted in the state’s rights-of-way. That action was in response to legislation passed earlier in the year and taking effect Oct. 1.

“As you can imagine, we have received many complaints about the new SHA sign enforcement and we are working locally to educate our citizens about the need for safe signage on our roadways,” the five Calvert County Commissioners stated in a letter to Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. [D-District 27]. “In Calvert County, our town centers and major employment centers have limited opportunities for directional signage, diminishing the ability of customers to locate services.”

“This was a state issue, they never advised us,” said Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark [R].  “It has more to do with state ordinances than county ordinances.

Department of Planning and Zoning Director Chuck Johnston explained that an ad hoc committee is considering changes in Calvert’s regulations pertaining to signs.  The panel’s goals include establishing “reasonable and impartial regulations for all types of signs.” Among the priority issues, Johnston cited “regulation of signs on vehicles and ‘rolling billboards,’ size of signs, farm signs, off-premise, directional and electronic signs.”

Johnston stated the regulations should be written and enforced to “maintain overall pleasant visual appearance and rural character, reduce potential safety hazards, protect property values, ensure compliance with all applicable state and federal regulations, simplify regulations where possible and promote economic development and viability of businesses in the county.”

Chris Moore, an aide to Delegate Mark N. Fisher [R-District 27B], announced Fisher and two other lawmakers have submitted legislation regarding temporary advertising signs on state highways during the weekends. A hearing on the measure, HB 1131, is scheduled for March 13 at 1 p.m. in Annapolis.

Attendees, who sat at tables and worked as teams, were asked their opinions on what was positive about the county’s regulation of signs and challenges posed by the implementation of regulatio