Driving through Eldersburg is becoming an “enlightening” experience.  It takes more than one hand to count the number of digital or LED signs with moving text that grab one’s attention on a drive up Liberty Road from, say, Johnsville Road to Liberty Reservoir.  There is Salernos’ time, weather and specials sign, and the new Carroll Community Bank sign, which arrived only months ago (along with the new name, a change from Sykesville Federal Savings Association).  Then there is the digital gas pricing sign at Shell, and the two at Crown.  Keep going and you will see the announcement sign at Faith Lutheran Church, the scrolling business advertisement sign at Oklahoma Center, and the comparatively modest one-line scrolling signs at Susquehanna Bank and Jiffy Lube.

Will Eldersburg ever reach its limit on flashy signs?  Perhaps not.  The county code does not have a limit on the number of signs, and each business is entitled to have at least one sign on its property.  The county does, however, limit the size and height of the signs, and require that they do not obscure driver visibility.

For signs in unincorporated areas such as Eldersburg, business “use-on-the-premises” signs have the following size restrictions:  They must not project over or into any street or right-of-way or more than four feet above the parapet wall or roofline; they must not have any sides greater than 200 square feet; and freestanding signs may not stand taller than 30 feet high.

Also, the code stipulates that the total area of all signs on a business premises must not exceed 4 times the linear foot of the building wall parallel to the street.  So, if a business’s building front is 50 feet long, the business could conceivably have one sign as large as 200 square feet – for example, 10 feet by 20 feet.

Fuel stations, which typically have smaller buildings, are allowed to exceed these limits as long as they don’t exceed the 200 square feet rule on any sign.

Freestanding business signs require a building permit, which includes a zoning certificate. It’s not typically a complex process; some sign companies even handle this process for the business buying the sign.  A permit can be obtained in 5-10 days, at a price of $50 per sign side.  A separate permit is required if new electricity is being run to the sign.

The key to the laws is safety: No business sign shall obstruct the vision of motorists using entranceways, driveways, or any public road intersection.  Also, according to the Carroll County Code, “Illuminated signs shall be constructed to avoid glare or reflection on any portion of an adjacent highway or residential buildings. However, no flashing or rotating flashing illumination shall be permitted.”  This part of the law is primarily to prevent signs from resembling the light of an emergency vehicle and confusing motorists.  Scrolling text is not against the law.

Perhaps more distracting than these friendly business signs are the dozens of “for lease” signs on business property in Eldersburg.  From an economical viewpoint, the number of empty business units is a bit alarming.

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