Decision on Royal Farm gas station sign is delayed Oversized sign a matter of safety, company says


The Howard County Board of Appeals has delayed a decision on a petition from Royal Farm Stores to have a sign larger than county regulations allow at its gas station and convenience store at Guilford Road and U.S. Route 1.

The sign is in place. Last Thursday night's board meeting focused on whether there was a need for such a large sign at that location. The sign -- 22 1/2 feet high and 47 1/2 square feet -- is 2 1/2 feet taller and 7 1/2 square feet larger than permitted.

John Kemp, vice president of Royal Farm Stores, apologized for erecting the sign without proper approval late last year. But he contended that the location and design of the station made the large sign necessary.

Kemp said that the sign informed motorists of gasoline prices and that, with the station placed amid trees at the bottom of a hill, anything smaller would not allow motorists traveling along U.S. 1 at its 50-mph speed limit to safely read the sign. "People tend to choose a gas station as they're driving, and we want them to do so safely," Kemp said.

He was backed by testimony from Lee Cunningham, a transportation safety engineer, who said traffic patterns, topography of the land, slope of the highway, surrounding trees and the speed limit require a large sign.

"It's not a matter of having a larger sign to take away business from the other gas stations," Cunningham said. "People just need to be able to safely judge the prices of the gas station."

Board member Jerry Rushing said Royal Farm might have created its own problem by designing the station with a large canopy and putting it in that location.

"The Amoco and Crown gas stations that come before [the Royal Farm station] on U.S. 1 adequately serve motorists," Rushing said. "Royal Farms should have planned the gas station and convenience store better."

But at the end of the session, Rushing said he was not ready to make a decision and requested the delay. A decision should be rendered at the board's March 4 work session.

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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