Editorial: Mixed signs
Everyone wants to catch your eye. Merchants need all the help they can get to advertise their goods and services.
Gloucester’s zoning ordinance currently prohibits temporary signs such as signboards, banners and letter boards, a ban widely ignored until recent enforcement caught up with some of the users.
Acknowledging reality, the Gloucester Planning Commission has proposed ways to enable the use of temporary signs in business districts. The rules along with other revisions to the sign ordinance have been talked to death. They are practical and should be approved.
Merchants along Route 17 where traffic flies by deserve a chance to catch motorists’ eyes when they have something special to announce. Those on Main Street face the daily challenge of competing with the big box stores and the franchise restaurants and the general business sprawl along Route 17.
We feel sure the county, in trying to regulate signs, is not trying to stifle business anywhere. Its present broad prohibition on temporary signs is neither reasonable nor workable. Businesses in all zones deserve consideration and regulation that protects the county’s appearance without the force of handcuffs.
Ironically, at the same time that the county has been prohibiting temporary signs, the state has had a program in place that allows off-premises signs to be placed right on the roadside in the same sign style and type style as borne by official highway signs. This is the Integrated Directional Signing Program, of which VDOT says: "You’ve seen them all along Virginia’s highways—those helpful signs that guide you to gas, food, lodging, campgrounds, attractions, hospitals and more. Do you manage a business, service or attraction and want it to be listed on one of those signs?" Funded by annual fees, it is probably a good moneymaker for the commonwealth, although it is not widely used here.
It’s a moot point insofar as local zoning laws are concerned.
The county cannot do a thing about it. It’s a restricted program, limited to businesses that aid travelers or attract tourists or provide information. But it is there in the law, and it’s an opportunity to advertise on signs that conform to others on state roads.
The county may feel that too many signs are cluttering up the roads. It is trying to rein in the clutter. But at the same time, the state is apparently finding a revenue source with its business sign program.
There seems to be a disconnect here…