Sandwich-boards signs gain support in Anna Maria

Sandwich-board advertising signs are not permitted under Anna Maria’s code, but Mayor SueLynn isn’t putting the bite on business until May 22.

At a special commission meeting May 2 requested by Commissioner Dale Woodland, commissioners discussed allowing sandwich boards at businesses until a special exception ordinance passes a second reading, which is slated for May 22.

An ordinance prohibiting A-frame signs outdoors at a business passed in January. And the moratorium that stalled removal of sandwich board signs was in effect until May 1.

Commissioners had voted 3-1 with Woodland absent at their April 25 meeting not to extend the moratorium beyond May 1.

Woodland, who called the May 2 meeting, said he talked with owners of a business upstairs in the building that houses the Anna Maria post office. That business and it’s signage can’t be seen from the ground level — only a sandwich board sign positioned downstairs directs customers to their location, Woodland said.

“I called the mayor and she said only the commission had the power to extend the deadline,” Woodland said.

Mayor SueLynn agreed, but said she learned from city attorney Jim Dye that she has certain enforcement powers.

She said she’s decided to relax enforcement on sandwich board signs until the drafted special exception ordinance is approved by the commission.

But she advised business owners that code enforcement officers would definitely enforce the ban after the special exception ordinance passes.

“And I think only two or three businesses might qualify” under the special exception requirements. She’ll present those to commissioners at their Wednesday, May 7 meeting, when the first reading of the ordinance is scheduled.

Commission Vice Chair Nancy Yetter was not happy with the mayor’s decision to relax enforcement.

“We’re not trying to harm anyone’s business. But we went through this process and now the mayor is saying she’s going to override us. Our governing policies don’t appear to hold much water,” Yetter said.

Woodland has support from Commissioner Doug Copeland, who also has no problem with the mayor’s decision. The agree to considering the special exception on a case-by-case basis.

“Not everyone who applies will get an exception,” Woodland said. “But I’m fine with what the mayor is doing. I just wanted some relief for business owners until the special exception is in place.”

Several business owners spoke in favor of allowing sandwich board signs to remain, including Debbie Webster, who owns Artspace, located upstairs, above the post office.

“My business is at 101 S. Bay Blvd. We have pulled our A-frame sign and we only had one customer May 1 and she was a friend of mine. So, basically, without our A-frame sign, nobody knows where we are,” Webster said.

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