A tattoo shop in Emmitsburg is now allowed to keep two of its window signs up after voicing concern about proposed changes to the town’s sign ordinance at a Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night.
Don Sonn, co-owner of Emmitsburg Tattoo Co. at 2 W. Main St., said Tuesday that he and his wife, co-owner Brandy Malocha, were issued two sign permits Tuesday by Town Planner Zach Gulden. The permits cost $50 each, he said.
The permits allow Sonn and Malocha to keep the two signs up in their window boxes, one of which is horizontal and 97 by 16 inches, and reads “Tattoo.” The other, a vertical sign measuring 66 by 11 inches, also reads “Tattoo.”
Sonn said that in the past, town staff allowed them to hang the signs without a permit, as long as the total square footage of all their signs didn’t exceed 50 feet.
Before the permits were issued, Malocha and Sonn addressed town staff and the commissioners at Monday night’s meeting. Their main concern was that if the tattoo signs were taken down, it would hurt their business during a busy season.
“A sizable portion of our livelihood is walk-in clients,” Sonn said at Monday’s meeting.
The discussion between Sonn, Malocha and town officials stemmed from Gulden presenting the first portion of proposed changes to the town’s sign ordinance. Gulden said changes to the ordinance were needed because of results of recent state and federal Supreme Court cases.
Over the next few months, town commissioners and the public will have a chance to hear the rest of those changes at town meetings in March and April. Gulden said the commissioners could vote on those changes in April.
Both he and Town Manager Cathy Willets also said many of the changes in the code were moving existing law from the town’s building and construction code to the town’s zoning code.
Willets said that if any business owners were concerned about the proposed changes, they could attend one of the next two meetings. The town staff is open to feedback, she said.
Some other business owners also spoke about the proposed changes Monday. One of them was Susan Glass, co-owner of the Ott House restaurant at 5 W. Main St.
Glass said navigating the proposed changes is difficult, given that she works 80-plus hours a week at her business. Those changes span roughly 60 pages in the town’s agenda packet for February.
Local businesses have opposed changes to sign ordinances in the past.
“We had such turmoil the last time we put this sign ordinance together,” Glass told the commissioners. “The business community begged and begged and begged [the commissioners to] please not sign it the way it was. ... I really think you need to reach out to your businesses by mail with what proposed changes are coming up.”
Commissioner Tim O’Donnell said after Monday’s meeting that the overall sign ordinance issue involves balancing the interests of businesses, free speech and safety.
He said the proposed changes are an ongoing process, and that if the ordinance was too restrictive in the past, he encourages business owners to voice their concerns.
“You don’t want to have a sloppy downtown, and we don’t,” O’Donnell said about the current signage situation downtown. “And I don’t see us moving in that direction. Even if we modify the sign ordinances, I think we want to meet the needs of the businesses, but at the same time, have a nice downtown.”
Sonn said no matter what happens with the ordinance, he and Malocha want to follow the law.
“We’re going to be knee-deep in this with the commissioners,” Sonn said Tuesday. “They want input.”
County official discusses 5G cell towers
Roger Wilson, Frederick County’s government affairs and public policy director, briefly addressed Emmitsburg’s commissioners Monday.
He asked the commissioners to submit any requests to County Executive Jan Gardner’s office for the county budget, and also spoke about the possibility of 5G small cell towers coming to town.
“If you have not been approached yet, you will,” Wilson said about the latter topic. “Small towns are kind of the prime areas where these small cell tower [companies] want to operate in.”