Planning & Zoning Meeting Minutes
June 19, 2012
Commissioners in Attendance: Jerry Burroughs, Chairman; Hubert Trego; Joy Loeffler, Dorchester County Liaison; William Craig, Vice Chairman; Marshall Rickert; Dwight Cromwell; Gage Thomas, City Commissioner
Absent: Mary Losty
Others in attendance included: Anne Roane, City Planner; Dan Brandewie, City Planner II & Robert S. Collison, City Attorney
Chairman Jerry Burroughs called the meeting to order and asked for a moment of silence.
Gladys Walker, 4758 Maiden Forest Road, Rhodesdale, Maryland, member of Wesleyan Church, Cambridge, Maryland and Kathryn Camper, 405 Robbins Farm Road, Cambridge, Maryland, member of St. Luke United Methodist Church are here requesting a 30-day temporary sign 3x6 feet to be placed at Sailwinds. The sign will advertise the new morning service at St. Luke United Methodist Church at 7:30 a.m. each Sunday starting on July 1, 2012. Both churches with the addition of Zoar United Methodist Church are under one charge, one pastorate. Ms. Roane said the sign needs to be permitted through the Department of Public Works (DPW). Ms. Walker and Ms. Camper said they will follow through with getting the sign permitted.
Ms. Roane said they decided to have a work session to go over the sign portion of the ordinance which may change. She does not know how Article 15 of the current ordinance is going to work out. Staff prepared a comprehensive re-write of that ordinance in 2009. Staff and the Planning Commission (PC) reviewed it and then they started the Comprehensive Plan process. It went on the back burner while they went through the intense Comprehensive Plan process. The thought was they would bring it back. She forwarded this to Chris Jakubiak, consultant. She wants to re-visit it tonight and make sure that if there are any other concerns they want to talk about them again so they could forward them on. Mr. Jakubiak will look at it and give his professional opinion. When she spoke with him he thought it was comprehensive and it was on the track with the national standards and certainly was an improvement over the existing one. Mr. Jakubiak will bring his recommendations regarding this at the next meeting. He was fairly comfortable with what had been done and what the PC was comfortable with. She wants to bring them up to date on where they are with enforcement of the Rt. 50 signs.
-Enforcement Issues Going from Maryland Avenue to Crusader Street
Wendy's - is now being leased by Popeye's; they will be re-doing the whole site. They are not pushing enforcement at this point because they will be doing their own signage.
The Old Popeye's -their attorney Sandy McAllister will be following up with his client by the end of the week. He understands what they are obligated to do.
Plaza Tapatia - she will visit them and tell them the rolling sign needs to be moved. She wants to talk to them first before sending a letter. Most of the banners are gone on that side of Rt. 50.
Spicer's on Woods Road - they are challenging it. Tomorrow, the package of information is being forwarded to their attorney regarding the original sign permit for that project along with the citation letter fining them $100 per day for not removing the sign. The attorney is arguing it should be grandfathered in. She wanted Mr. Collison to review it before she sends it out.
Cont. on the other side of Rt. 50....
Fit N Fresh - they have a little sign with wagon wheels. She will talk to the owner of that property and ask them to clean that up. They are operating right now; their other signs are legal.
Church - it is no longer there; the building is an old house that was converted into a church. She is trying to track down the property owner to send a letter requesting the sign be removed.
Sporting Goods Store - She will be talking to the owner about his rental sign.
Dayton's -they have two signs that need to come down.
Stop and Shop - the signs need to come down. They need to call Verizon to get all of the empty phone booths removed.
That takes care of all the signs on both sides of Rt. 50 from at Maryland Avenue to Woods Road.
Mr. Burroughs suggested sign enforcement have a 30-day time period to respond. He asks if they should shorten the time period because some have 2 and 3 letters being sent to them. He thinks it should be enforced more. It is written in the code and is part of their ordinance.
Mr. Burroughs noted a sign at the old Burger King. Ms. Roane said she'll take care of it.
Mr. Craig said in Section 298, page 2 of the ordinance the name has changed from zoning official to building official, but on page 3 it is zoning official. Ms. Roane said it is building official. On Section 298 line 204-208 is about projecting signs affixed to the building extending over the sidewalk. The next section is about the building's flat signs over the property line. He doesn't think anyone knows where the property lines are on any street; it needs to be removed.
Ms. Loeffler said there's a sign on Race Street by the crosswalk at Cannery Road. The sign is sticking out from a plant; the sign is in the dirt. Ms. Roane will ask Jason Segar to look at it.
Mr. Craig said in Section 302 the proposed ordinance is about exempted signs. Item 1 is about rental signs. It says such signs shall be removed within 10 days after the final settlement or rental of the property. That will be tough to enforce. We may want to re-think how it is handled.
Mr. Craig said for large rental properties, they never remove the sign because they fill one and one becomes empty the same day. They don't have to by this ordinance. His primary comment is in Section 308 we have all of the old zoning districts in there; obviously that will be changed.
Mr. Trego asked about a sign across from where Jimmy & Sooks use to be. On a cable, the City has allowed different organizations to put up a sign there. There should be a time limit on signs; some are there 6 weeks. Ms. Roane said there is a timeline. Mr. Trego said it is not adhered to.
Ms. Loeffler said Section 296, page 1, is allowing certain small, unobtrusive, incidental signs to the principle use of the respected lots on which they are located subject to requirements of this section but without requiring permits. Mr. Craig said one of the reasons the ordinance doesn't get enforced is because things happen that we don't know about or we forget about. If you permit a sign for 30 days, in 30 days the sign should come down. The computer can check this.
Mr. Trego asked if the City could create a stamp used like a permit number placed on the back of sign indicating when the sign was issued and when it expires. Ms. Roane said excellent idea.
Commissioner Thomas said page 6, line 125 is about taking down a sign within 30 days after a business closes. Mr. Collison said if a sign is in good order on Rt. 50, they take the panels out, you can see the ugly tubes, but if somebody put back a clear white panel, the metal is painted and in good condition, not a safety hazard...Mr. Burroughs said that is going against what they are trying to do. They are trying to get less signs on Rt. 50. That is part of the Maryland Initiative. Mr. Craig said it is a structure with no purpose if there is no business there.
Commissioner Thomas uses High Spot sign as an example; it has value; somebody bought the building; again it is High Spot. They changed the logo, but the name is the same. As long as the sign is not detrimental to the local property, it is obviously vacant. Mr. Trego said the blue section clarifies this; an extension can be granted since it has gone past 30 days. Commissioner Thomas said when you cite somebody this PC has got to make a decision whether the sign stays or not stays. He thinks they are talking to death the Preston sign. They still own the property, they advertise off site, but they are coming back. Had the PC followed through with it and made them take down the sign, it seems for no good reason because they've come back.
Ms. Roane said the Popeye's sign on Sunburst Highway has exposed tubing, the face is gone, the sign is in bad shape; they are asking them to take down the structure. They are arguing they could re-use the sign. It is a franchise sign and has the shape of Popeye's. They can cap off the electric; something else could be put there. The owners are arguing it will cost them $20,000.00 to take down the sign. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with. The biggest part of that is dealing with franchises that do not make it and they have their whole iconic signage system. If McDonalds went bottom up and we didn't have that in here and we said all you have to do is take off the face, then you would have a frame like this. Commissioner Thomas said he agrees it should be in here, but he wonders if there is any more latitude for a sign like Preston. He asked if the Preston sign is in compliance now. Ms. Roane said it is at the time, but by the time they finish, it will not be in compliance when we do this.
Commissioner Thomas said line 225 says a sign not exceeding 1 square foot in the area does not have to get a permit. This is not quite 1 square foot; he thinks they could make it 2 foot and not create an abundance of problems. Mr. Craig asked if anyone has complained about this before. Ms. Roane said it has never come up. Mr. Craig said he thinks if people have never complained about the 1 square foot and applying for a variance to go to 2 square feet to put their house number up, let's leave it at 1 square foot. Mr. Burroughs agrees. Commissioner Thomas said what he hears is their biggest challenge is "I didn't know". People are going to put what they think is an appropriate size sign for their house. Commissioner Thomas said line 362 says a sign shall not exceed 2 square foot; they are using 2 foot there. Ms. Roane said there may be a consistency issue. It should be 1 square foot, not 2 feet. On line 396, number 3 says no person shall erect a free standing sign which is greater than a maximum height of 35 feet. Do you want a 35 foot sign in a residential area, it says all zones. Ms. Roane said that needs further attention.
Commissioner Thomas said line 471 is about no wall sign shall exceed 33% of the surface area of the wall which is affixed to, but it should have a cap of 100 square feet. Ms. Roane said it depends on the zone; wall signs are based on the road frontage. There's a 300 square foot limit cap in the HC and GC. To keep it consistent, he thinks it should say the front wall or any wall, not to exceed maximum allowed in that zoning district, it could be 100 feet or 200 feet. Mr. Burroughs said line 469 is the beginning of that since no wall signs shall exceed the maximum permitted and it says in no case shall the wall sign exceed 33%.
On the display boards, page 521, Commissioner Thomas doesn't think they should restrict color. He sees no reason not to have an electronic message board in one static image; no flashing, no running and no animation. Mr. Burroughs thinks they have discussed this before; the imaging coming out as you are driving, especially at night or at dusk, distracts people while they are driving. Commissioner Thomas said you could have a sign with lights and the bright colors of the message to be equally as bright. They are talking about controlling the illumination; at certain hours you would have to turn down the illumination; it would never exceed a certain amount. Ms. Roane said they will look at how that is handled in other places.
Mr. Rickert said if you drive around and look at the signs, our town is getting junky looking. We all have to remember that especially the abandoned sign standards and that sort of thing. There is also an abandoned sign standard in front of the real estate office next to the BP on Rt. 50. Mr. Burroughs said they have talked about that. The convenience store on Maryland Avenue, Quick Stop, they are still advertising beer from the side of the building. Ms. Roane said there was a big discussion at the Staff Meeting this morning about that property. Mr. Rickert said the Verizon Store sets as good as an example as possible on a small, odd piece of property that doesn't lend itself to a new franchise food outlet to really doing a nice job.
Ms. Loeffler said the Rt. 50 sign at the Tire Store has a hole in their sign; it is in disrepair.
Ms. Roane said they do not have a computer program that reminds you for example when a sign is issued, when it comes down, etc. Mr. Craig said for $150 you can go to Walmart and buy it.
Mr. Rickert said what is going to be coming at us he believes is more and more privatized placements and somebody is going to come in and they will want 15 beds or whatever and we have every right and authority regulating that. We have to make sure to conform to the court defined classes that we can't prohibit from residential areas when they are doing it. He thinks it will take some research and also very close coordination with the State permitting agencies.
Ms. Roane said there are different permitting agencies depending on the different type of clienteles and there is different licensing. If they have the license then pretty much they will have all of these requirements that are going to say one bathroom per 3 people or they will not get a license from whatever group it is that is giving them the contract. The nature of the license will help define whether it is an exempted class. If somebody is licensed as a detention facility, even if they are licensed, that is not necessarily an exempt class.
Mr. Rickert said he believes the nature of the license they are required to have will guide them as to whether or not they are an exempted class because there is court law for that. Ms. Roane agrees with him but her frustration is the State does not require the license. Mr. Rickert stated if the State doesn't require the license, we can zone them out. That is the point; they are not an exempted class. Mr. Craig said what we can't do is try to override the State.
Mr. Rickert said if it is an exempted class that is licensed, the traditional group home for mentally retarded, we are somewhat restricted, but we can still require sprinklers. If it is not licensed to define it as an exempted class, we have every right to zone it out. Ms. Roane has no problem with it if we can do that.
Mr. Cromwell moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:18 p.m. Mr. Trego seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
Anne D. Roane
Note: These minutes were approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on December 20th, 2012.