The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners sent its proposed sign ordinance to the town’s Planning Commission on Monday for a 30-day review process.
Town Planner Zach Gulden reviewed the third and final part of the updated ordinance to commissioners at the meeting. Board President Cliff Sweeney and Commissioner Elizabeth Buckman were absent.
Gulden outlined some changes made to the new ordinance after town officials met with businesses and other stakeholders in the community.
One of the changes included allowing neon signs. Those can be up to 2 square feet and must be a steady and stationary light source, according to the proposal. One sign is permitted per property.
Fines for any violations of the ordinance could be up to $1,000 per day. Town Manager Cathy Willets said, however, that fines would typically start much lower — around $75 — and there would be warning notices sent to businesses or other property owners in violation of the ordinance.
Gulden said the increased maximum fee is due to increased town staff costs and legal fees associated with enforcing the fine.
Board Vice President Glenn Blanchard and commissioners Tim O’Donnell and Joe Ritz voted 3-0 to send the current ordinance to the Emmitsburg Planning Commission. That body has 30 days to review the ordinance, and can recommend its approval, approval with amendments, or denial.
It will meet June 20 to discuss the ordinance and possibly act on it. Willets said Sweeney met with town officials Monday and supported the ordinance.
Blanchard said there was more dialogue between the business community and town officials when drafting the ordinance this time. Protecting the historic nature of the town is important, he added.
“You want a community to be attractive, [which] is the bottom line,” he said. “You don’t want this community to look like Vegas. We’re not Vegas. We’re a small town. And so you don’t want things to look glaring and blaring and everything else, and people are driving down Main Street [saying], that’s pretty rough.”
At one point in the meeting, O’Donnell said he was concerned that people living in the Village District — which includes downtown residential property on Main Street, west of the Town Square — might oppose internally illuminated signs that are too bright.
Finding a balance between those constituents and the businesses that need signs to sell their products is key, he added.
The Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association has endorsed the current ordinance, and sent a letter of support to Gulden. Its president, Wayne Slaughter, praised him and town staff Tuesday.
“Being democratic is one thing,” he said. “In this case, they really worked exhaustively to get involvement from the public on this.”
Rutter’s proposal still in planning stages
A proposed Rutter’s gas station and convenience store is still in the planning stages, but the town’s Planning Commission approved a site plan at a meeting in May.
The 8,380-square-foot store is slated to be built on the southeast corner of U.S. 15 and Md. 140. Officials said construction should start by late summer, pending weather and other paperwork.
Blanchard said he hopes Rutter’s can make itself an attractive spot, including outdoor seating and stone in its construction if possible.
That Rutter’s wants to locate near Emmitsburg is a big deal, he added.
“It’s huge. That’s a game-changer for the town, having something like that come in,” Blanchard said.