Dunedin shops seek relief from sign rules
DUNEDIN - Relief may be on the way for a group of merchants who say the city's strict sign laws are causing business traffic, which is already stifled by a sluggish economy, to drop off drastically.
Under a proposal to come before the City Commission next week, the city would temporarily grant businesses an "economic hardship" exemption, allowing them to use advertising devices typically rejected by the city as too tacky or distracting. Possible examples include costumed or sign-toting mascots, vehicle wrap signs and outdoor dining-area umbrella structures bearing the name of the business.
Staff is recommending that the city allow these exemptions any time the county employment rate is 8 percent or higher.
Greg Rice, Dunedin's director of planning and development, said the city's local planning agency, a citizen advisory board that reviews all matters affecting the land development code, lent its unanimous support to the measure last month. Asked by the LPA to review the matter, the Downtown Dunedin Merchants Association said it had "no comments or objections."
"We understand a lot of businesses are in the worst economic climate in the last 20 years," Rice said.
Without the revised ordinance, business owners in the Causeway Plaza, a lonely looking shopping center tucked into the northwest corner of Bayshore Boulevard and the Dunedin Causeway, say they are in danger of shutting down.
"Which is uglier: empty businesses or signs?" asked Subway shop owner Mona Jazzar last week while she stood inside her empty restaurant as the lunch hour approached. She said she's had to reduce her staff of six to three in recent years: "If I close, that's more job loss and less taxes going to the city."