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Harford council passes bill for zoning changes with amendment to directional sign policy

Bill 19-016, which covers a number of changes to Harford County’s zoning codes regarding business signage, industrial lots, definitions for clubs and other uses, was adopted by the Harford County Council this week.

The bill drew comments of support from property owners and business owners who want to develop their projects in Harford, such as the James Run mix-use campus near the Route 543/I-95 interchange, but also concern from land-use advocates about the potential negative impacts on communities and the local landscape during a June 4 public hearing.

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Councilman Robert Wagner put forth nine amendments at the council’s June 11 legislative session, removing language from the bill defining nonprofit, private and recreational clubs. Wagner withdrew the amendments during the next legislative session Tuesday, ahead of the council’s vote on the bill, saying they do not “accomplish further restriction — in fact, they actually loosen up things a bit.”

“We’d come back at a later date and work with the [county executive’s] administration to try to tighten the language up, to give us something that’s more suitable for our public to deal with in the future, moving ahead,” Wagner said.

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The District E representative also put forth a 10th amendment to the bill, which the council approved unanimously. That amendment, which was ultimately the only change made to Bill 19-016, adds the phrase “a maximum of” to a clause limiting to two the number of directional signs placed on properties near a business, directing passing motorists to said business.

Wagner noted “there was no maximum there,” so he wanted to ensure the bill’s language limited the number of signs to two. A business owner can enter into an agreement with a neighboring property owner to put signs on the latter property directing people to the business, but they are limited to B1, B2 and B3 commercial districts and must be within 1,000 feet of the business.

The signs can be no larger than 20 square feet in surface area and no higher than 10 feet above the nearest public road grade; they “shall be removed promptly” if the business is no longer in operation, according to the bill.

The council approved Bill 19-016, with its single amendment, unanimously.

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