Community leaders from East Towson on Tuesday, Feb. 12 spoke in support of Councilman David Marks' bill that aims to eliminate some of the bail bonds signage in downtown Towson.
"We, the community, are not pleased at all with the signs from the bail bonds," Adelaide Bentley, a longtime East Towson resident and president of the North East Towson Improvement Association, told the County Council during its work session Tuesday. "For years, we've been trying to improve the community and here come the bail bondsmen putting blight over it."
Marks, who represents the 5th District, including Towson, submitted the bill last month in response to community concern over the bail bonds signs, which light up East Chesapeake Avenue and Virginia Avenue. Nearby residents feel the signs are unnecessarily large, intrusive and in poor taste.
The controversy focuses on a pair of signs. The sign for Double D Bail Bonds on East Chesapeake features a large busty woman that lights up above the shop, and a sign for the months-old Bail Bonds Inc. has been likened to a large, bright orange billboard in the yard.
Paul Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, told the tcouncil that some of the signage — especially the suggestive Double D Bail Bonds logo that features a busty woman — would be "very appropriate for 'The Block' downtown."
However, Marks said before the work session that he planned to amend the legislation so that it is not specifically aimed at the bail bonds signs but serves the same purpose.
"It tries to guard against bad signage within a certain distance of historic East Towson, which happens to be where the bail bondsmen are," Marks said. "If you look at downtown Towson, the borders of downtown Towson are very well established to the north, south and west. By doing it this way, we provide part of a buffer between downtown Towson and the residential community to the east."
In an email Tuesday night, Marks said he was "not interested in shutting down businesses, only making sure that the signage does not detract from other businesses and residential neighborhoods."
"To that end, the amended legislation says that within 450 feet of the East Towson Community Conservation Area, the height of any freestanding sign may not exceed six feet and the sign must have a brick or masonry base," Marks wrote. "Neon tube lighting may not exceed a total of four square feet."
Several community members from East Towson and other surrounding neighborhoods came before the council to lobby against the signs, no matter which approach Marks took.
Ed Kilcullen, past president of the Towson Manor Village Community Association, told the council Tuesday that nearby residents who bought their homes with the idea of walking to the library and nearby businesses are now finding the idea less appealing with the bail bonds signs.
"While they are legitimate businesses that provide services to individuals finding themselves involved with the court, the high saturation of this type of business and the increasingly egregious signage associated with the businesses is changing the nature of this area," Kilcullen said.
The County Council will vote on the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. For results, go to towsontimes.com..