Commission says no to EMC sign

Though the Planning Commission recommended denial of a car wash’s request for an electronic sign last week, some commissioners stressed that they weren’t opposed to such signs in principle.

“What you’re asking for is not out of the question, but it’s not in the policy,” Matoaca District Commissioner F. Wayne Bass told the applicant last week.

Flagstop Car Wash and Quick Lube applied for a computer-controlled, variable message, electronic sign at its 11031 Iron Bridge Road location. The electronic message center (EMC) sign would replace the removable letter marquis sign that is part of the business’ shared sign with Wawa, according to a letter Flagstop owner Robert C. Schrum, Jr. sent to neighboring property owners.

At last week’s meeting, planning staffer Robert Clay said the staff had recommended denial of the request because it didn’t conform to the county’s EMC policy. The application sought three lines of copy, a six-second message interval and full color on the sign; the policy permits no more than two lines of copy, a minimum 10-second message interval and white or amber lights.

Schrum said Flagstop built its location about 11 years ago, and sold the front of the property to Wawa about 10 years ago. The problem is that the businesses on the 10-acre property are only able to put up one, 60-square-foot sign, he said. Two other tenants in the Flagstop building, Simplicity Salon and an insurance office, have no signage, he said.

Several small businesses would be helped by the sign, he said. At a public meeting last week, Schrum, Bermuda District Commissioner Sam Hassen and Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle were the only ones in attendance, he said.

Schrum said the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce would soon present something requesting a revision of the entire sign ordinance.

“I don’t think it’s right that the Planning Commission hold the business community hostage to get action from the Board of Supervisors,” he said.

Bass said some of the commissioners were not against electronic signs, “but we’re beating our head against the wall” until the Board of Supervisors allows them to change the policy.

“If you think we are holding you hostage, we’re not,” Bass said.

The business community is ready to make some noise about the issue, Schrum said. Bass said he hoped business owners would bring the issue forward.

Allen Twedt, of Holiday Signs, said he was encouraged by some of the commission’s comments.

“We really don’t have an ordinance problem. We have a policy problem,” he said. The existing EMC sign policy makes no sense, he said, and he couldn’t believe how the work of the last sign committee “blew up.”

Paul Grasewicz reminded the commission that the existing policy “served us for the last 10 years.”

“I wouldn’t say that something that the county developed years ago lacks common sense,” he said. And, he added, the county has the policy it has because of the failure of the sign committee Twedt referenced to compromise.

“As far as I’m concerned, the business community and the sign companies have themselves to blame,” he said.

Hassen said he thought Schrum knew he thought EMC signs should be allowed, but approving EMC signs that deviate from the policy could create “an enforcement nightmare.” Until he sees the supervisors hint at any movement to change the policy, he said, he sees no need to “get the community in an uproar” to discuss the signs.

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