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Largo extends use of temporary signs
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LARGO – A program designed to stimulate the economy by allowing Largo businesses to use temporary signs was extended another year July 1.

The provision, first enacted in July 2010, allows businesses to put up banner signs smaller than 32 square feet and 12-foot “feather signs.” The temporary signs can be displayed for no more than 45 days once every three months.

Two new rules were added to the ordinance this year, to help city staff enforce the program. First, if businesses are caught displaying their temporary signs beyond the 45 days, their permit will be revoked for the remainder of the yearlong term. Second, the city now is able to remove signs that are not “in a safe and neat condition,” allowing the city to enforce “professional and uncluttered signage,” according to city documents.

Largo commissioners expressed concern with lack of enforcement of the ordinance, given a reduced staff to check on businesses with permits. The new rules helped allay those concerns, but Commissioner Woody Brown said they didn’t go far enough. Brown was the sole vote against the ordinance change, which passed its second reading July 1.

“We’ve seen a lot of signs that go up and stay up until they basically fall down on the ground,” he explained after the meeting. “As they proliferate, more and more of them up and down the right-of-ways, they’re not that effective either, I don’t think.”

To date, the city has issued 294 permits since the start of the program in 2010: 75 in the first year, 77 in the second, 80 in the 2012-2013 year term and 62 in the most recent period, which started July 2013. The city gives an average of six permits per month.

Code enforcement visited a random sample of businesses with active sign permits in May, according to city documentation. Only one of the 14 signs was determined to be in poor condition. However, code enforcement discovered and removed five signs without permits.

Brown pointed out that the program was meant to be a temporary stimulus to the economy.

“If it’s temporary, it should end at some point,” he said.

A focus group charged with updating the comprehensive development code has recommended keeping the temporary sign program as a permanent option for businesses. Brown said he hoped that commissioners wouldn’t agree to that measure, explaining that residents who responded to the Community Values survey this year said they wanted an attractive community.

“I don’t think these feather signs, especially when they’re in disrepair after a while, are real attractive,” Brown said.

Instead, he suggested giving businesses more latitude for creative signs during a shorter amount of time.

“If it’s really important for businesses to draw some attention to themselves, they should have, like a couple weeks a year, or some period of time a year where they can do whatever the heck they want,” he said. “And then the rest of the time, comply by our sign code.”

The commissioners voted 6-1 to extend the temporary sign program for one more year.
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