Electronic advertising sign proposed on Route 10

Bermuda District Planning Commissioner Sam Hassen deferred a conditional-use permit for an electronic advertising sign at the Rx Compounding building on Iron Bridge Road near Chalkley Road in January to allow the community to meet and discuss the pros and cons of the request.

Holiday Signs made the request on behalf of Sonny Currin, who owns Rx Compounding, but during the community meeting held on Feb. 8 he told the group, “I don’t want this sign necessarily; I want to do what you, the community wants.” He said he had called Holiday Signs because he needed a way to get all businesses that reside in his new business development represented on the sign currently in place, but didn’t have room because of Chesterfield’s sign ordinance.

According to Currin, Allan Twedt, who represents Holiday Signs, recommended a variable message LED sign, which, much like a high-definition television, can display a number of different messages throughout the day.

One of the concerns expressed by the Chester Community Association (CCA), which had a number of members present at the meeting, was that the sign could set a precedent and would encourage other businesses along the Route 10 corridor to install similar signs. One member referred to a committee formed among business owners on Midlothian Turnpike to discuss similar issues. Twedt replied that only a couple of businesses attended the meeting, indicating that businesses on the Midlothian corridor were not opposed to electronic advertising signs.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Gecker, who represents the Midlothian District and formed the Midlothian committee to gage how businesses there felt about the signs, stated in an e-mail that: “The consensus of the meeting – in fact, the only opinion expressed – was that we should not encourage EMCs [electronic message centers] on Midlothian Turnpike.  Those present included a representative from Crosland – Cloverleaf Mall redeveloper – and MIRR – the group from Southport that represents businesses there that asked for the additional tax rate to beautify their section of Midlothian Turnpike.  I have since spoken with representatives of HCA – Johnston-Willis – and Macerich – Chesterfield Towne Center – and all agree that we should not encourage EMCs.  My plan is to follow the policy that exists.”

Judy Stoneman, who was representing her neighborhood group at Lakewood Farms, pointed out that the sign would not adhere to county policy because it was closer than 1,000 feet and in sight of Magnolia Lakes, a residential neighborhood opposite Mr. Currin’s property on Rt. 10.

Twedt said electronic advertising signs enhance business properties because they replace the need to post banners and other temporary signs. Local developer Henry Moore agreed with Twedt, adding that businesses should have the right to post the type of sign they want.

The CCA recently released a statement opposing electronic advertising signs in the Chester community. “We believe that electronic advertising signs are a relatively new technology, and recent national research has shown that there is cause for concern related to these signs and their effect on driver behavior.  

“We also believe that the proliferation of these types of signs will make our community a less attractive place to live and thereby jeopardizing the sustainability of businesses, precipitating a deterioration of the community. It is our contention that from a safety standpoint there is mounting evidence that these sign are a safety hazard for drivers, therefore we believe that a professional engineer should sign and seal these engineering decisions from a highway safety perspective.”

County planning staff has recommended denial of Holiday Sign’s application because it doesn’t conform to county policy on electronic signs relating to lines of copy for images/graphics, timing of message changes, display colors and distance from residentially-zoned properties.

The Planning Commission will consider the conditional-use request during its March 16 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the county’s public meeting room.

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