October 8, 2013 Minutes | www.charlescountymd.gov


Charles County, Maryland

October 8, 2013 Minutes

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


The Board of Appeals held its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room of the Charles County Government Building, La Plata, Maryland. 
The following were present:

Luke Hannah, Chairman
Brendan Moon, Vice Chairman
Lynn Green, Member
Shannon Houston-Smack, Member
Sean Johnston, Alternate
Matthew Clagett, Associate County Attorney
Cyndi Bilbra, Planning
Carrol Everett, Clerk

The Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. and stated there was a quorum.  Mr. Mower was absent.

The Chairman announced the process by which all Board of Appeals hearings are to be conducted.

The Chairman announced that anyone wishing to make a statement pertinent to the operations of the Board can do so at this time, excluding the items on tonight’s agenda.

The Chairman welcomed new Board members:  Lynn Green, Shannon Houston Smack, and Sean Johnston, Alternate.

7:03 PM, Public Hearing:

Docket #1314  – Kenneth Shumate, for a variance to the sign regulations for a building sign, as provided in Article XIX, Section 297-324 B.(1)(b) and Article XXV, Section 297-416 of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance.

Mr. Clagett stated there was substantial compliance with the notification requirements.

Ms. Bilbra, Planning Staff reviewed the case as follows:

  • The section of the sign regulations, subject to the variance request, addresses allowances for signage on multi-tenants and or multi-level buildings.
  • Specifically, the building should only have the name of the building and/or address for identification purposes. 
  • There is an allowance for a business sign for a tenant located on the ground level with their own separate entrance 
  • There are other tenants with advertisement on the building that are grandfathered from the before-mentioned regulation, altered May 11, 2012 by Bill 2-12-07.
  • The Bill was adopted to avoid any further signs located above the first floor elevation on multi-level buildings. 
  • The Sign Task Force Committee felt that multiple signs above the first floor elevation took away from the appearance of the building.

Questions from the Chairman included the following: 

  • Are the signs shown above the 1st floor of the building grandfathered?
  • Does the Applicant have any signage on the building now?
  • Is there any other business signage on the property, other than the building, that you can see from Route 301? 

The Chairman stated it appears that the only way the Applicant can advertise his business outside is if the owner of the building agreed to a tenant directory sign.  Ms. Bilbra concurred.

The Chairman stated that the only tenant directory is located inside the front door of the building.  Ms. Bilbra concurred.

Mr. Johnston asked if a tenant could erect a sign if they had a separate outside entrance on the ground floor.  Ms. Bilbra replied that a sign could be placed above the door.

The Vice Chairman asked if a separate directory sign outside of the building in an area between the parking lot and the building is permissible.  Ms. Bilbra replied yes.

The Vice Chairman noted that one of the photographs provided by the Applicant shows there are five (5) grandfathered signs on the building.  Can those signs be changed under the grandfathered provision?   Ms. Bilbra clarified that as grandfathered tenants leave, their signs would have to be removed. 

The Vice Chairman stated that it appears the building itself does not have a name on it.

Ms. Bilbra stated that a sign on the building “Canterbury Office Building” would be permitted.   An outside tenant directory sign is permissible on the property. 

Ms. Bilbra reviewed the criteria outlined in subsections (1), (2), (3) and (6) of Section 297-416(C)  of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance.  Staff determined that the Applicant did not meet those criteria. 

The Chairman swore in the Applicant:

Dr. Kenneth Shumate
7710 Haynes Point Way
Unit L
Alexandria VA  22315

Mr. Shumate asked the Board to grant his request.  

Mr. Shumate passed around a photograph showing a similar building with multi-floors and signs that are individualized by each business owner, not necessarily uniform with the property owners. 

Mr. Shumate continued that the signs currently on the building are in line with the aesthetics of the building. 

Mr. Shumate submitted a photograph of the back of the building without any signs on it. 

Mr. Shumate stated that some of his patients found it difficult to find him without signage.

Questions from the Board included the following:

  • Where is your office space located?
  • How long have you been there?
  • Were you aware of any sign ordinances before you leased the space?
  • Is your office located in the front of the building where your sign would be?
  • Can you enter from the back of the building and park there as well?
  • Have you talked with the building owner if this request is denied?
  • What is your Plan B?
  • Has there been discussion with the owner for a multi-tenant sign somewhere else on the property?  Have you purchased your space or are you leasing?

Ms. Bilbra stated that she has denied tenants signage on some of the buildings in photographs included with the Staff Report.  Staff believes that if you name your building, you should direct people to the building. 

The Vice Chairman stated the building has no name on it and that is something the owner could change. 

Mr. Johnston suggested the Applicant approach the owner and negotiate a concession.

Actions by the Board

A MOTION was made by the Vice Chairman, seconded by Ms. Houston-Smack, to deny the variance request for Docket #1314 based upon non-compliance with criteria outlined  in Article XIX, Section 297-324.B.(1)(b) and Article XXV, Section 297-416 B. and C.(1) through (6).  The Board discussed and recommended a reasonable and legal solution.  With all voting in favor of the denial, the MOTION passed


Mr. Steven Ball, Planning Director, introduced Mr. Joey Raczkowski, the new Program Manager for Subdivision & Site Plan Administration.  

Mr. Ball handed out information to the new Board members regarding a mandatory on-line education course developed by the Maryland Department of Planning. This course applies to members of the Planning Commission, Planning Board and Board of Appeals.  The law states that the course must include education on the role of the comprehensive plan, proper standards for special exceptions and variances, if applicable, and the jurisdiction’s zoning ordinances and regulations, planned development ordinances and regulations, subdivision ordinances and regulations and other land use ordinances and regulations.  This will be an on-going educational requirement throughout the State, as membership on these bodies’ changes from time to time. 

This course must be completed within 6 months from the date of hire. 

The meeting adjourned at 7:50 PM.