LARGO – City commissioners plan to sweeten the incentives they will offer businesses to replace pole signs with monument signs before June 2017.
Largo Commissioners informally gave staff the go-ahead June 12 to develop a tiered plan for the incentives, which would include 10 $200 grants that will be available to offset building permit fees in addition to a 25 percent sign square footage bonus.
The program stems from discussions city officials have had recently on ways to encourage businesses to replace their nonconforming signs before they are required to do so in five years.
City officials had proposed that $100 grants be available during the first year of the program, 2012-2013. Staff researched incentives by other cities and found that almost all sign assistance programs are found in redevelopment areas and downtown development zones.
“The options this evening are distinct from those programs offered by other municipalities. The programs offered in Largo would be citywide and not just offered within a redevelopment district,” said city Program Planner Karisa Rojas-Norton.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes is opposed to the requirements, saying he doesn’t like monument signs.
“The problem with the monument sign is that it creates an optical barrier,” Holmes said.
He said because of the size restrictions on the signs business can’t put the letters on them large enough for a passing car to see.
Holmes argued against requiring businesses to replace their signs with monument signs in five years, saying that the signs are expensive and the $100 initially proposed as an incentive won’t “even pay the tax.” He suggested that the businesses should be brought in compliance gradually.
“I don’t know why we just don’t grandfather this thing in … ,” Holmes said.
Mayor Pat Gerard said the question of whether the city would phase out pole signs was resolved five years ago when the city enacted a new sign ordinance.
“We should be talking about the sign improvement incentive program,” she said. “That’s what we are here to talk about.”
City officials said proposals for the sign bonuses and incentives drew support from the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce Economic and Small Business Development Committee. The city’s Community Development Advisory Board and Planning Board also offered positive comments on the program.
“The Planning Board expressed that tiered incentive seemed to be most equitable so the incentive gradually tapers off and would not overload the staff,” Rojas-Norton said. “They agreed it would be a program that would be very popular with the business community, and the board believed that while $100 was a good starting point. the city should be more generous.”
Gerard said she thought it would be worth it in the city’s community redevelopment zones to have more generous incentives to remove the signs. She suggested that staff come back with a proposal temporarily restricting the incentives to those properties that are outside of redevelopment areas while they figure out what should be offered in the redevelopment areas – incentives that would “give them a better deal down the road.”
Under the tiered approach, the 25 percent square footage bonus will be reduced gradually until the program ends. The grants would only be available during the first year of it.
City manager's assistant leaving
Assistant to the City Manager Jonathan Evans has accepted the position as Haines City assistant manager. His last day of work for the city of Largo will be July 6.
‘This decision is by far the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. You have been a significant influence on my professional growth and I cannot thank you enough for your contribution to making me the public servant I am today. When I depart from City Hall a part of me will forever remain in Largo,” he said in his letter of resignation to city officials.
He expressed sincere appreciation to the City Commission for supporting staff and “allowing us to grow personally and professionally.”
“Thanks, to past, present and future commissioners for always putting Largo first. As for the business community, thank you for your support and willingness to listen and help us throughout the years. It is our strategic partnerships that have made events like the 4th of July such a success. I’ll miss you all dearly and I promise I will make you all proud,” Evans said.