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Date of Issue: May 03, 2007

Sign ordinance to get another edit

The editing continues on an ordinance amending sign regulations in Holmes Beach.

The Holmes Beach City Commission discussed proposed regulations during a work session April 24 at city hall.

Several people in the real estate business also attended to speak about the ordinance.

Commissioners are trying to craft an ordinance clamping down on the proliferation of signs, but not infringing on First Amendment rights or interfering with methods of doing business.

Commissioner Pat Morton said the goal is to restrict the placement of signs with "reckless abandonment."

The stated purpose of the ordinance is "to create a comprehensive and balanced system of sign control that accommodates both the need for a well-maintained, safe and attractive community, and the need for effective business identification, advertising and communication."

The measure is intended to protect against "unlimited proliferation in number and location of off-site and on-site signs," placement of "over-sized, unsightly, animated, flashing and other aesthetically unpleasant and unsafe signs" and commercial signs cluttering residential areas.

The draft incorporates recommendations from the city planning commission, alterations by the city attorney and city planning consultant, requests from the mayor and city commissioners and suggestions from citizens and business people.

Still, said Commission Chairperson Sandy Haas-Martens, there is more work to be done.

"We've got a couple more sessions to work things out," she said.

Discussion at a meeting in early April focused on defining flags to contrast with banners, which are prohibited unless for temporary events, and on real estate signs.

Discussion last week again focused on real estate signs - specifically, how many are allowed, where they can be placed and how long they can remain.

Real estate signs, in the ordinance, are considered temporary signs.

The measure, as written last week, would allow one vacation rental sign, not exceeding 18 inches in any dimension, located on the principle structure.

The measure would restrict the size of a real estate sign to 6 square feet and no more than two attachments.

The measure would allow for two real estate signs on waterfront property - one in the yard on the street side and one on the watefront side.

The measure also would allow two real estate signs on corner lots - one in the front yard and one in the side yard, but not two on one street.

The number of signs for a garage/yard sale or open house would be limited to three - two directional signs and one sign on the property. None could be placed in the rights of way.

Commissioners discussed when real estate signs should come down from a property, specifically signs on short-term rental property.

The draft ordinance states, "Real estate signs shall be removed immediately following consummation of the sale or rental of the property. If the sign is a free-standing sign, the pole, mast, frame or other structure to which it is attached shall also be removed."

Applying that rule to short-term rentals seems impractical said some agents - and commissioners generally agreed.

"We have 250 rentals," said Barry Gould of Island Vacation Properties. "I'd have to have a huge staff going around taking signs down and putting them back up."

Gould also pointed out that a rental could be occupied, but a sign is still needed because the property soon could be available.

"The rental sign issue is always a big one," added Frank Davis of Island Real Estate. Davis said that a lot of people shop around during their visit for a place to stay on their next trip. "People get here, they want to advance to a bigger place."

Commissioner David Zaccagnino mentioned that toward the end of 2006-07 winter season, he saw people in his neighborhood taking down telephone numbers and addresses for next year's rentals.

"We need to think about these short-term rentals," Haas-Martens said.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger suggested that when commissioners adopt the ordinance, the new regulations be phased in.

"These are expensive marketing tools," he said of signs. "I'm wondering if you can have a grace period to come into compliance."

City commissioners plan to discuss the ordinance during another work session May 8 at city hall.

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