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Baltimore County cracks down on builders’ signs

If builders want permits to construct and complete homes in Baltimore County, they’ll have to send a letter agreeing to abide by county regulations regarding signs promoting developments.

(File photo)

(File photo)

A 1984 ordinance spells out the permissible size and placement of directional signs between the hours of 10 a.m. Saturday and 8 p.m Sunday. But last week, inspectors went to projects throughout the county and informed builders they would not perform inspections or issue building or use-and-occupancy permits until builders send a letter to Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections Director Arnold Jablon promising to abide by the rules.

“Wednesday, I started getting calls from builders saying inspectors were showing up and saying they were ordered not to do any more inspections because of sign violations…,” said Michael Harrison, the Home Builders Association of Maryland’s vice president of government affairs. “The director wants a letter from each builder saying that they will not use signs in the future.”

Harrison speculated the reason for the crackdown was because a new app allows residents to report violations via their smart phones, causing the number of complaints to increase, which in turn resulted in more enforcement. But it turns out the reason for the crackdown is much simpler: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, during his travels around the jurisdiction, noticed builders placing signs in violation of the ordinance.

“The county executive has just been noticing when he was driving around that these signs are becoming more prevalent. He’s really been noticing a proliferation of them, so that was the genesis for doing this,” said Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman. “He feels like it’s a real quality of life issue in our neighborhoods and he wanted to nip it in the bud.”

Harrison said his organization has reached out to members and has urged them to send the letter promising to abide by the regulations. Failing to get an inspection or an approval can have a significant effect on the builder’s bottom line.

“Houses are timed. They’re built on a tight timeline, and when you miss an inspection it can take days to get the inspector back, and so it pushes your project back,” Harrison said.

Kobler said there is a need to be more vigilant about enforcing the ordinance because a recovering economy will mean more building, which could lead to more signs. But she said Baltimore County’s policy has been and remains clear.

“If builders choose not to comply they will not receive their permits. We can’t have these signs cluttering up our neighborhoods,” she said.