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HLC recommends sign application to planning commission

By Staff | Oct 14, 2011

Business signs were again a point of contention amongst town officials as Shepherdstown Historic Landmarks commissioners struggled to initially reach an agreement regarding a sign permit application.

Devonshire Arms Cafe and Pub General Manager Josh Ferguson was present at Monday evening’s meeting to try to get recommended approval to planning commission for a hanging sign as well as two sandwich board signs, one of which would lean against the entrance of the establishment. Zoning Officer Harvey Heyser asked Ferguson to verbally modify the application at the LED-lit “open” sign already hanging at the business.

Commissioners John Shank and Jay Hurley, who have been opponents of businesses displaying sandwich board signs in front of their businesses, stuck to their guns, rejecting the idea of the “proliferation” of these types of signs about town. The two even questioned the business’ use of the lit sign.

“The thing about where we are, we’re not on the main drag,” Ferguson said of the restaurant located at 107 S. Princess St. “It says ‘open.’ It lets people know there’s a reason to turn that corner.”

“It doesn’t fit Shepherdstown,” Hurley said, noting his business, O’Hurley’s General Store, is even further off of German Street and he would never hang a neon sign or display a sandwich board.

He added, “We typically have a problem with sandwich boards because they do obstruct traffic.”

Ferguson explained to commissioners that the sandwich boards sometimes interchange positions; the two are never both on the sidewalk at once. One will sit on the sidewalk, alongside the tables near the curb, while the other is either not displayed or leaning near the entryway. Ferguson said the sandwich board on sidewalk is no wider than the table and chairs on the sidewalk and does not obstruct the pathway created between the entrance and the seating area.

Commissioner Donna Northouse told Ferguson she saw no problem with the set up they had at the Devonshire. Hurley said when he walks to town he avoids that side of Princess Street because of the obstructions on the sidewalk.

“I would think a sandwich board would add to the clutter,” he said, noting the seating, signs and shrubbery around the business.

The HLC guidelines do not specifically address business signs; however, the planning commission, the board to which the HLC advises, has three sections to its sign ordinance and has a subcommittee currently addressing revisions to it.

Heyser said while the current ordinance addresses “free-standing signs,” what many applicants consider sandwich boards to be, the sign committee will write the revisions to make these boards permanent signs, which business owners must acquire a permit for.

Commissioner Alice Chakmakian moved to recommend approval of all components of the application. Initially, the vote was 2-1, with Shank providing a dissenting vote. Hurley could not vote as acting HLC chair in Hank Willard’s absence.

Upon further discussion, Hurley said, “I really don’t think the sandwich board should be there. All the rest is fine.”

“Well all other businesses have sandwich boards. Are we discriminating?” Northouse said.

Shank eventually decided to withdrawal his dissenting vote and create a consensus to send to the planning commission for its Monday, Oct. 17 meeting.