Car wash asks for electronic sign

Next week, the Planning Commission will take up a local car wash’s request for an electronic sign at its Iron Bridge Road location.

Flagstop Car Wash and Quick Lube has applied for a computer-controlled, variable message, electronic sign at its 11031 Iron Bridge Road location; a public hearing on the request will take place at the commission’s Oct. 19 evening meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

The electronic message center (EMC) sign will 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. The new sign would be shared with Wawa, as well as an insurance tenant and Simplicity Salon, which are upstairs in Flagstop’s wash, lube and gift shop, the letter says.

“We have wanted to do one [an EMC sign] for a long time,” Schrum said in a Friday interview. Schrum, who is chairman of the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce’s government relations committee, said the chamber had been interested in helping businesses get such signs.

“Because of the restrictive sign ordinance in Chesterfield, there are lots of businesses that are dying on the vine,” he said.

Now, Wawa and Flagstop split the removable letter sign, he said. An EMC sign would allow them to use all of the sign at various intervals, he said.  

According to its report, the staff has recommended denial of the request because it doesn’t conform to the county’s EMC policy and approval of exceptions to the policy could set a precedent.

The applicant has proffered that there would be no more than three lines of copy on the sign, messages would change no more than once every six seconds and the copy display would be in full color. The EMC policy limits such signs to no more than two lines of copy, a message interval of at least 10 seconds and display colors of yellow or white, the staff report says.

The policy also suggests that EMC signs should be at least 2,000 feet apart. The proposed sign would be within 2,000 feet of Iron Bridge Sports Park, which has an EMC sign that was approved in 2006.

That policy needs to be changed, Schrum said.

“I think it is unfair that they can mandate that only those signs can be 2,000 feet apart,” he said. “We’re not trying to do anything Las Vegas style.”

Though they asked for a six-second interval, a 10-second interval would suffice, he said. But, a 10-second interval with only two lines of type makes it difficult for drivers to get the full message, he said. Schrum’s application seeks three lines of type, which is what the removable letter sign has now, he said.

“The fear that everybody has is there’s going to be this proliferation of EMCs all over the county,” he said, but the signs are too expensive for that fear to materialize.

According to the letter, Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle and Planning Commissioner Sam R. Hassen asked Schrum to have a public meeting on the proposed sign on Oct. 12.

“We always give the community an opportunity to speak,” Hassen said when asked why he and Jaeckle asked for the meeting. “It’s a thing we try to do, to make sure we get public input.”

At public hearings, he said, he thinks he’s expressed that if proposed EMC signs don’t meet the current policy, then he would most likely be recommending denial.

“That will probably be my position on this one,” he said. Hassen said it isn’t that he finds the signs unattractive, but “for the present, we’re staying with the policy.”

 “There’s no doubt in my mind that we need to take a look at the policy,” he said. “We were getting close” to revisions when a committee reviewed the policy last year, he said, but that got tabled. At this point, the Board of Supervisors may have more pressing issues to deal with, such as budget concerns, or “it may be they’re content with the policy as is,” he said.

Schrum said the county has made great strides in proving that it’s business friendly, but “I do think the sign ordinance needs to be revisited and EMCs should be part of it.”

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