A committee created by the Carroll County commissioners has recommended an immediate moratorium on billboards, a ban on flashing signs and the addition of landscaping at "gateways," the places where motorists enter the county.
As drivers on Route 140 cross into Carroll from Reisterstown, for example, they glimpse the pristine beauty of Liberty Reservoir.
Then, as they drive through Finksburg, they're greeted by strip malls and a collection of billboards plugging everything from fast food to the power of Christ.
Many people think this gateway to Carroll is unsightly.
"Billboards adversely affect the appearance of the county," said Donald Hoffman, chairman of the Gateway Committee, which drafted the recommendations. "We felt strongly there should be an immediate moratorium on the billboards while the county decides what to do with them."
The committee was formed in April and has written a 21-page report about all of Carroll's entry points in Mount Airy, Hampstead, Sykesville, Union Bridge and Finksburg.
It hopes commissioners will embrace its ideas and invest in improvements.
The seven-member committee, consisting of business owners, town officials and residents, will present the report to the commissioners at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Room 03 of the County Office Building in Westminster. The public is welcome to attend.
The county's Economic Development Commission is reviewing the Gateway Committee's report and expects to share its findings with the commissioners by February, according to Jack Lyburn, the county's economic development director.
The commissioners are expected to wait for the EDC's comments before making decisions about the gateways.
"I'm in favor of strengthening and beautifying our gateways," Lyburn said. "I'd like to see a welcome sign installed, and some of the billboards should be removed."
According to the Gateway Committee, a welcome sign would cost between $3,000 and $100,000, depending on its design.
Some money for improvements is available through the State Highway Administration, Hoffman said.
Dave Roush, plant manager for Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Union Bridge and a member of the EDC, has suggested that the county first concentrate on road signs and limit efforts to one area.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell has embraced that idea.
"I think it would be a good idea to start with one area - perhaps Finksburg because it is the main gateway - and if it works and if everybody's happy with it, we'll move on to other gateways," Dell said.
To ensure success, Dell said, the county must provide incentives for businesses to spruce up their properties.
"This will not succeed without the support of the business community," he said.