Council supports Marks' revision to signage bill for Towson City Center

The County Council voted unanimously on Monday to pass a revision of a bill that expands signage on the Towson City Center development on York Road at the Towson roundabout.

The initial bill had been proposed and passed at the request of 5th District County Council member David Marks. So was the revision, which caps the height of new signage at the project to 55 feet.

The revision represents a harmonious chord struck between Marks and the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, which had expressed concern that the bill might allow larger signs at sites other than Towson City Center.

Paul Hartman, vice president of the GTCCA, said last week that the association had requested modifications to the bill to limit signage elsewhere in Towson.

"We definitely are in support of the Towson City Center project, but we don't want signage (like this all over Towson)," Hartman said at the council's Nov. 29 work session. "We needed to find a happy medium so the project can go forward unhindered."

In finding that happy medium, Marks went go back to the council with a new bill that essentially revises his October revision to the county's sign regulations.

In the new bill, electronic signs on the Towson City Center building can be no higher than 55 feet off the ground, assuaging concerns from the GTCCA that flashing signs atop the 13-story building would be visible for miles.

The new bill also sets a minimum square footage in buildings to qualify for the "state use" stipulation of the bill. Another amendment introduced before the vote Monday further restricted the bill's reach to a small northern part of downtown Towson.

The several floors being leased by Towson University make the Towson City Center eligible for the expanded signage.

"I know it's unusual to change legislation that's already been signed into law, but I think it's important to my constituents that these changes be made," Marks said last week.

When the bill was first discussed in October, the GTCCA spoke in opposition on the grounds that it was legislating for one building, and allowing the developers to tiptoe around the variance process, which involves community input.

The GTCCA was also concerned about what they believed was a lack of public input on the issue. .

In terms of the scope of the bill, the GTCCA scored a smaller victory before its passage on Oct. 17 when Marks amended the bill to only apply to Towson City Center, or any other building with space leased by a state entity.

When first introduced, the bill would have applied not only to Towson City Center development, but also Dulaney Center and the Towson Town Center.

Some media reports that likened the proposed signage for Towson City Center to that in Times Square led the GTCCA to further oppose the bill, even after its passage.

In a letter to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Oct. 27, the GTCCA urged the county executive to veto the bill that would allow signs that could be seen from "as far as Cockeysville and the Loch Raven Reservoir."

All along, the GTCCA made it clear that they were not against the development, which Hartman said is "extremely important to the revitalization of Towson."

And after last week's work session, both Hartman and Marks praised the other side for their open communication throughout the process.

"The councilman was very willing to work with the community on this," Hartman said.

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