Perryville discusses a more visible sign for casino

Perryville's town commissioners said this week they are still waiting for more information before deciding whether to allow Penn National to put up a tall sign advertising Hollywood Casino Perryville, including one potentially as high as 175 feet.

Casino representatives again told the commissioners during their Tuesday night work session that having signs visible from Interstate 95, as well as Route 222, is critical to the casino's success.

The State Highway Administration and Maryland Transportation Authority must approve any signs for I-95.

As for the signs impact inside the town limits, commissioners said residents are concerned about the signs being visible from their houses, and the board also does not know if state officials would approve the specific signs being proposed.

Mary Ann Skilling, the town's planner, said commissioners did approve some signage, and a few of them, such as large signs for Chesapeake Overlook Parkway, are already up near the casino's entrance.

"Commissioners didn't want a very large sign and wanted to do away with visual clutter," Skilling said at the work session.

But Bill Hayles, who recently took over as the casino's general manager, said Penn National is still hoping for greater visibility.

"I think it's critical to our long-term success. We are missing a whole lot of traffic [on 95]," Hayles said, explaining a tall sign on casino property would go a long way toward keeping prospective customers from bypassing Perryville for Delaware Park to gamble.

Delaware Park, south of Wilmington, Del., horse betting and table games in addition to slots. Hollywood Casino Perryville is only authorized for slots gambling.

Hayles said Penn National has received a lot of letters from people who want the casino to be easier to find.

"I respectfully request that you look at this," he said, adding that other locations were considered by the company, including those out of town.

"This one had the most visibility from all angles," he said.

Skilling, however, said the proposed 175-foot sign is "way beyond our regulations."

Because it would be a lighted and overlooking I-95, the sign would have to be approved by state and federal officials, she said.

Skilling said the town's goal has been to consolidate all store signs within a specific development on one sign, as was done, for example, with the shopping center on Route 40.

"That's what we have approved so far for all the signage throughout the town," she said.

The commissioners said they want to see if a sign would be visible from different points around town, because residents do not want to be able to see it from their neighborhood.

Commissioner Michael Dawson said the board should offer up specific neighborhoods if it wants Penn National to do such a study.

Commissioner Barbara Brown said she did not have a problem with Penn National moving forward.

"I recognize they [Penn National] need some type of signage that needs to be seen from I-95," Brown said. "They have done everything we have asked them to. I think a decision needs to be made and we need to move forward."

Dawson agreed, saying he is frustrated with the process.

"This has been going on for a year. These guys are trying to operate a business," he said.

Ethics Ordinance discussed

Also at Tuesday's work session, the town commissioners spent a long time discussing a requirement by the state to update Perryville's ethics ordinance.

Mayor Jim Eberhardt mentioned he is concerned about a rule that would forbid someone from being involved with an organization, such as a bank, if the person has a financial interest in that organization.

The city has until Aug. 1 to agree to align itself with the state's ethics requirements.

The commissioners also debated the details of giving residents water-and-sewer abatements, including whether to allow residents to appeal the town's decision by coming before the board.

Park access

Police Chief Vince Wernz recommended making part of the road in and out of Perryville Park one way, saying people have been complaining about the narrowness of the road and resulting problems in negotiating traffic conditions.

Town Finance Director Rachel Deaner proposed a maintenance contract with OnSite Computers, based in Middle River, to improve the town's computer needs.

"Right now we have two people who work on the town's computers, only if there's an issue," Deaner said. "I see that as an issue."

The contract would be $1,000 per month in the beginning, but the price would decrease over time, she said.

Commissioner Michelle Linkey said the proposal looks good and she is eager to see progress in unifying and improving the town's computers.

"We are already really behind," Deaner said.

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