NEW MARKET -- The town could be getting a new sign ordinance soon, the mayor and council members said at their monthly council meeting Wednesday night.
After temporary beer promotion signs hung outside Mealey's Restaurant and Pub attracted a complaint from a town resident, the town's zoning administrator, Bruce Galloway, sent a letter to the owners.--
Susan Shipley Witmer, general manager of Mealey's, attended the meeting to urge an update of the ordinance.
Witmer said the restaurant, which reopened under her management in July, is already struggling in the town's down market.
"We're hanging on the edge right now. We are battling a double battle of a dead town and a failed business in there before. I've heard that we did have a complaint about the signs that I think are not offensive at all," Witmer said. "The first weekend those signs were up, eight people stopped in and ate at that restaurant because they saw the signs; they didn't know that we were open.
"I don't know where to go from here. I'm frustrated," she said.
Her thoughts about the ordinance, which was not on the agenda but came up during a public comment period at the end of the meeting, set off a debate about who is to blame for the town's economic turmoil.
"Because you've got a few people in town who don't want to see change, you've got a dead town," Shipley said. "Who is going to stand up?"
She and Mayor Winslow F. Burhans III referred to some outspoken historic preservation advocates as "bullies."
Councilman David Price said previous town leaders had been overly tied to the town's reputation as the "Antiques Capital of Maryland."
"What you're suffering from is that one industry dominated the town and you still have some of those people who think they dominate the town," Price said. "You've come in at a time when more reasonable heads prevail."
The town's current sign ordinance allows 12 square feet of signage for each business, Burhans said. The town could consider more flexible rules for temporary signs and allowing more signage space for businesses with larger frontages on the street, such as Mealey's, council members said.--
Witmer said the town should aim to strike a balance similar to that of downtown Frederick, which has "lots of signs and lots of historical integrity."
Burhans said he has long believed that "economic development benefits historic preservation."
Councilman Jake Romanell said that while he didn't disagree that the ordinance needed an update, everyone needed to remember that the town is a federally designated historical district.
Underpayment of trash bill
The council voted to pay $9,924 to Key Sanitation after it was recently discovered that the company had been picking up trash for several homes since 2010 for which the town had not paid. The town was collecting a trash tax from the homes. ___
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