Councilman David Marks said Monday he's attempting to revise controversial sign legislation amid some residents' worries it could change the look of downtown Towson.
The bill, which was passed earlier this month and signed last week by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, changed zoning regulations to allow developers to post certain signs in Towson without going through the variance process.
The revised bill, which Marks will introduce at the County Council's meeting next Monday, will restrict electronic and changeable copy signs above a certain height.
The recently passed law applies to buildings in downtown Towson with at least 150,000 square feet of space or a state use. At the moment, only two buildings fit those criteria: Towson Commons and Towson City Center. Marks sponsored the bill at the request of Caves Valley Partners, the city center's owners.
Arsh Mirmiran, director of development for Pikesville-based Caves Valley, declined to comment.
In interviews, Marks has said that the variance process could create unwanted hurdles to slow downtown growth.
Though Marks called accusations made by some residents that the bill would lead to Towson becoming as brightly lit as Times Square "ridiculous," he said that some signage is necessary and desirable for a downtown area. He also pointed to his opposition to the lighted sign originally posted outside West Towson Elementary School.
"I'm going to be a strong advocate for keeping that sort of sign out of residential neighborhoods," he said.
Residents, however, expressed distaste for Marks' original measure. In a non-scientific Patch poll, 70 percent of readers who voted opposed the original bill.
The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations voted at its October meeting to oppose the new law. In a letter sent to members last week, the council warned residents of "unintended consequences" of the bill, including lighted signs that could be seen from as far away as Cockeysville.
"We believe the current mechanism of requesting a variance when a property owner/developer wants zoning relief provides an important opportunity for the community to review and evaluate each project on its own merits," the council wrote. "We understand that the impetus for this bill was the need for zoning relief by one specific project and we are uncomfortable with wide-ranging legislation being enacted to benefit one project."
Marks said he received 12 to 15 emails from residents about the measure, expressing similar concerns.
"I was concerned because I was hearing from people who did not live anywhere near the downtown core but were worried about being able to see electronic signage from their house," he said. "When I heard from people that lived in Fellowship Forest, that was a sign to me that I needed to restrict this bill further."
Marks said the new bill will address the most common concerns, and he plans to meet with GTCCA leaders next week to discuss it.
"I hope the message is that I've listened to the community," he said.
David Kosak, the GTCCA's president, declined to comment until he has read the new bill.