Cumberland council to consider moratorium on lighted signs

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council next week will hold a public hearing on an ordinance that would prohibit any new internally illuminated signs for six months.

Signs that are lit from within are prohibited everywhere in town, except those grandfathered on properties like Greely High School, where the use predates the town’s sign ordinance, Town Manager Bill Shane said in an interview June 9.

The town may eventually allow some of the signs, Shane said, although not without first taking a comprehensive look at how they should be regulated. The council would have to either amend the existing sign ordinance or create a new one.

Internally illuminated signs, according to the proposed moratorium, include those that are “illuminated directly or indirectly by a light fixture located within the sign structure, including LED electronic message center signs, signs with back-lit channel lettering or halo lighting, or any other type of sign with a light source incorporated into the body of the sign and that has light emanating through or from the message of the sign.”

The Cumberland Congregational Church’s request to place an LED sign on Main Street prompted the town to take a comprehensive look at illuminated signs, Shane said.

“They presented … a very tasteful sign – black background, white letters – probably about 3 feet by 5 feet in size,” similar to what the church now has, he said.

But some residents are concerned that without an ordinance in place to guide businesses and civic organizations, the town may be faced with signs that would diminish the town’s character.

With the moratorium in place for 180 days, the Town Council Ordinance Committee would research how other communities handle such signs, and what the law allows.

“It may be LED signs today, and then two years from now that technology may be replaced by something else,” Shane said. “We’re trying to look at (the matter) more comprehensively,” so the town does not have to revisit the rules as technology changes.

The committee held its first meeting June 9, he said. The council’s public hearing will be held Monday, June 20.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Greely High School, shown in this 2015 photo, is one place in Cumberland that is allowed to have an internally illuminated sign. The town plans to look into regulating similar signs in the coming months.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.