LARGO – Recently, Largo commissioners asked city staff to erect some signs that would mark where the West Bay downtown district begins.
The sign that went up last week wasn’t quite what commissioners had envisioned. Commissioner Michael Smith called it “cheesy” and said he had hoped for something “more than a street sign.”
The problem is the city doesn’t have a set standard for what Largo signs should look like. Its facility, wayfinding and gateway signs sometimes use the city logo, sometimes the old clock tower logo. They’re usually blue, but sometimes green. They don’t have a set font, sometimes say “city of Largo” and other times just “Largo.”
In short, there is no unified theme to any of Largo’s signs.
“We’ve never, as a city organization, had a comprehensive sign program,” said Assistant City Manager Michael Staffopoulos during the commission meeting Aug. 5. “We’ve never identified what our sign standards should be: what our colors should be, what minimum lettering or wording should be on the sign, what kind of fonts we should use, what types of materials should be used and what type of general appearance our signs should take.”
Further, several of the city’s facility signs – especially the “Largo Municipal Complex” one in front of City Hall and ones in front of its police and fire stations – are in disrepair and need to be replaced. Its gateway signs, welcoming drivers into the city, also are in poor condition. Some, due to annexations, aren’t in the right place.
The need presented an opportunity, Staffopoulos said. Along the facility signs, the city could redesign its wayfinding signs, demarking the downtown, trails and community streets, as well as its gateway and facility signs.
Commissioners could choose to hire an outside company to create a new brand for the city, Staffopoulos explained. Such branding efforts cost the cities of Clearwater and Dunedin $100,000 and $76,000, respectively, and took about a year to complete.
Or, commissioners could ask the city’s own community development and marketing staff to create a comprehensive look for the signage.
“Essentially we’re talking about it using the existing identity elements that we have now, which would be the existing logo, the signature color of blue and standardizing the font, but not going through the lengthy process of developing a new logo and a tagline,” said Community Development Director Carol Stricklin.
The commissioners were not, as Mayor Pat Gerard put it, “in a big hurry for branding.”
“I do think it’s a problem that we need to address. Certainly we need to replace sings and I’d like to move toward similar signs or the same signs in each location,” said Commissioner Woody Brown.
However, he advised against taking on a big expense for the project, pointing out that many of the city’s blue street signs had the outdated clock tower symbol on them.
“I wouldn’t want to go through the expense of replacing all of those signs simply because we’ve come up with a new kind of standard of signs,” Brown said, suggesting those signs be replaced as needed.
He also asked for staff to consider adding logos from the community organizations within Largo to the gateway signs.
“I think those are really nice, and it adds a hometown feel,” he said.
Smith asked if there was a way to involve the community in the process. Staffopoulos said that the city would be doing some community outreach as it defines its districts, allowing for opportunities for each area to have input on a slightly different sign theme.
The business sign program
In the same meeting, the commissioners voted 5-1 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that extends the deadline for businesses to convert pole signs to monument signs. Commissioner Curtis Holmes was the sole dissenting vote.
Businesses will have two more years, tacked on top of the original 10-year amortization period, to comply with the city’s new signs standards. By June 2019, businesses will have to convert any signs on a pole to shorter, monument-style signs of a specific square-footage. The change is a significant expense for businesses; some of the 49 signs that have changed have cost as much as $12,000.
Commissioners debated how quickly annexed businesses with pole signs should be asked to convert after coming into the city. They agreed to amend the ordinance to give such businesses 10 years after their annexation period to comply.
The second reading of the ordinance is Tuesday, Aug. 19.
Atheists open the meeting
For the first time, the city of Largo invited a representative from Atheists of Florida to offer an invocation to start the commission meeting Aug. 5.
Joe Reinhardt thanked the commissioners for adopting to “the ever-increasing diversity in our community today.”
“We at Atheists of Florida have long advocated a moment of silence in lieu of an invocation, as an agreeable way to commence any meeting,” he said. “I invoke you to remember that human beings are the answer to human problems. And it is our responsibility to make the world and leave the world a better place.”