Signs, signs. Everywhere signs.
Are they messing up the scenery or providing a useful service in Taneytown?
"To tell you the truth, the signs that are out there are not trashy," said City Manager Joseph A. Mangini. "This ordinance is just a way to control the proliferation of signs in the city."
Mr. Mangini has introduced a proposal that would allow the city to control the size, shape and content of signs. He said he is particularly concerned with businesses along East Baltimore Street using portable signs as permanent signs.
There are about eight businesses in town that have these kinds of signs, Mr. Mangini said. They include the Sheetz convenience store, McDonald's and Reindollar Hardware, which is owned by Mayor Henry I. Reindollar Jr.
"When I think East Baltimore Street, I think of it as a business district. There are houses and things there, but I generally think of it as a commercial area," Mr. Mangini said.
"However, while I understand their need to advertise, I don't think they should over-advertise. Those people should be able to do within reason what they want to do to advertise their businesses."
Businesses that use portable signs for permanent advertising are not in violation of the current sign ordinance, which doesn't address portable signs at all.
The city issues "free-standing" sign permits to the businesses, although their signs are portable.
"Free-standing signs are embedded in the ground," said Mr. Mangini. "But the city has always given out these permits for signs that aren't really free-standing. We have to be sympathetic to both sides."
The language in the proposal, introduced April 12, tries to clarify the situation not only by defining "portable sign" but by spelling out exactly how a portable sign can be used within town limits.
According to the proposal, a portable sign is "any sign not permanently attached to the ground or to the permanent structure, or a sign designed to be transported."
Also included are those that have wheels, menu and sandwich boards, balloons used to promote a business, and signs on vehicles parked in a public right of way (excluding those used in normal operation of the business, such as carryout vehicles or panel trucks).
The city will issue temporary permits to businesses that use portable signs. The permit will be good for up to 30 days, if the ordinance is accepted as written.
"I look at it this way. If the person has to pay, say, $25, or whatever rate they may set, for the sign every month, economics might say it's better not to have it," Mr. Mangini said.
Taneytown Chamber of Commerce President Louis Lanier Jr. said a businessman came to his group about portable signs.
"The individual spoke about the fact that signs have sprung up and are not being regulated," Mr. Lanier said. "One of the goals of the chamber is to get better regulations on the signs."
The proposal also addresses signs' location, size and appearance. Flashing signs or those with exposed neon tubing are prohibited, and a sign cannot extend over or above the roof line or parapet wall of a building.
One clause prohibits "marquee" signs, but Mr. Mangini thinks the term may confuse some people.
"I mean those things that were on old movie theaters," said Mr Mangini, describing a semicircular structure that extends over the sidewalk. "It's defined in the ordinance, but people may not understand what I'm talking about."
Mr. Mangini acknowledges that the ordinance is "rough," but he believes it will help the city start making changes to the current law.
"This ordinance is actually the Chestertown ordinance with a few changes to make it apply to Taneytown," said Mr. Mangini. "It's not perfect, everything I write doesn't come straight from heaven, but it's enough to keep us on the dime."