By Greg Ellison
(Jan. 2, 2020) After opening discussions with Worcester County officials about a possible change in the sign code, the OPA Communications Committee concluded on Dec. 19 that its next step is to see what the cost would be to replace the current community marquees with digital messaging boards.
The committee has been considering the possibility of upgrading 17 manually managed community signs with a far smaller number of electronic ones. The hitch, however, is that county zoning laws could restrict placement of the digital signs.
County officials told committee members the only option would be pursuing a code amendment specific to Ocean Pines, while also suggesting that ideal sign locations would likely be at the north and south gate entrances.
Committee board liaison Dr. Colette Horn introduced the topic during the board of directors meeting on Oct. 2 , and the consensus was to pursue developing a code amendment with county officials.
Since that time Horn and committee chairwoman Jenny Cropper Rines consulted further with county zoning officials on a code text amendment.
Horn said the meeting was productive and that the general sentiment at the county level was positive.
“They were not discouraging,” she said. “As long as they can generate the language that they feel is enforceable on their end.”
Another issue raised by county staff involves commercial messages on these signs, Rines said.
“What they’re concerned about … is a sign going up and us selling advertisements,” she said.
Rines said Worcester County officials also wondered whether a code amendment permitting electronic signs in the Ocean Pines area would establish a troublesome precedent.
“It requires a change to the law, so we’re going to have to work through that with them in a way that isn’t going to cause them problems in other communities,” she said.
Developing the appropriate code language could take anywhere from 3 months to one year according to county officials, Rines said.
After presenting the communications committee with an initial digital sign estimate in mid-October,
returned to the meeting on Dec. 19 to review technical specs.
“Fastsigns put together a real quote for us for a 5 foot by 6-foot digital sign and it came up to $38,000,” he said.
Reynolds said the price would increase a bit if the sign included a cellular modem option and could fluctuate further based on the sign being one- or two-sided.
Another cost-issue consideration involves resolution levels.
“If you’re going down the road and you see the flashing signs and they seem kind of grainy, those are big LEDs,” he said. “The smaller they make the … LEDs, the clearer the sign is but the more expensive they get.”
If the bulbs are small enough, the sign resolution can achieve TV viewing quality.
“They have different levels and they gauge it by how far away someone needs to see the sign,” he said.
Reynolds said a comparable rough quote had been provided by Gable Signs and Graphics in Baltimore.
Rines, who last week also contacted Seaford, Delaware-based Phillips Signs, agreed Gable should be consulted again.
“Gable and Fastsigns are $5,000 apart [at] $35,000 and $40,000,” she said. “We’ll see what Phillips says. At this point our job is to get these estimates.”
If the board approves the plan — and there’s no guarantee it will — it would not be included in this year’s budget, as that work is already underway.