Chairman Ball and members of the County Council:
The League of Women Voters of Howard County respectfully requests that the Howard County Council remove from Council Bill 56 the provisions related to Video Board Signs as the Council votes on this legislation on Monday March 7. The League Board, at the Board's March 2 meeting, approved this letter by unanimous vote.
CB56 introduced December, 2010 had no references in its title to Video Board Signs other than the words "allowing for certain signs to be illuminated". In addition, the Bill 's only reference to Video Boards was found on page 8, item H, which stated "Video Board. In Downtown Columbia, Video Boards and scrolling video Marquee signage are allowed." The Bill also did not include the existing Sign Code purpose clause Section 3.500.
At the Council's February 28 work session, the public became aware of what is called Amendment E, currently a 5page amendment that adds definitions, sets criteria and establishes process for approval of Video Boards in Downtown Columbia. Based on the Council's discussion and requests for changes to this amendment, we are certain that the amendment will be longer.
At the same February 28 work session, it was acknowledged that the Sign Code Purpose clause, Section3.500, needs to be amended and added to CB 56. In addition, the current sign code will still need to be amended.
Our major objection is the public has not had an opportunity to testify on two major, the League thinks substantive, provisions proposed in Amendment E. The first major change is the allowance of Video Boards to advertise product. This was not included in CB 56 as published and is not contemplated as a permitted use under the existing sign code. The second major provision permits video boards to identify or advertise a use, product, business, or service that is not conducted or available on the premise where the Video Board is located. The current sign code prohibits such use and in fact treated this as a billboard function.
The Community needs time to comment on these important changes to the County's Sign Code policy specifically product advertisement and offsite advertisement. There is no harm in waiting. The redevelopment process takes time. A process for public comment on these proposed policy changes to the Howard County Sign Code is important and the public has not had an opportunity to comment on them.
The League urges the Council to pass the rest of CB 56 but remove all references to video boards and reintroduce that concept along with other necessary changes to the Howard County Sign Code as soon as possible.
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