Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

Largo merchants chafe at ordinance requiring new, shorter signs

LARGO — The business sign in front of 1200 Starkey Road rises at least 25 feet into the air. ALL ABOUT GRILLS, it reads, referring to a closed business. Red and yellow flames draw drivers' eyes to the roadside sign.

The tall sign could easily be reused by the building's next tenant — it's the most colorful thing on a stretch of road that's not exactly scenic. But the man who owns the sign will be forced to replace it before long, costing him thousands of dollars.

"My tenants don't have the money. I don't have the money," says John Ardolino, who owns several commercial properties in Largo. "Landowners and small business people have really been getting hammered in this recession, but the city doesn't seem to care."

In the next few years, many Largo business owners will find themselves in the same predicament. By 2017, all Largo businesses that have signs mounted on poles will be required by law to replace them with low-profile monument signs. The city is cutting down on what it calls "visual clutter."

But many Largo businesses are unaware of this city ordinance. That became apparent last week when the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce held a forum during which Largo officials and local sign companies could inform business owners about the law's specifics.

The few business owners who showed up were not pleased about the idea of shelling out money for new signs.

"When does it stop? When do you stop getting in people's pockets?" Ardolino asked officials during a discussion of city permit fees for new signs.

Robert Klute, Largo's assistant community development director, explained the reasoning behind the rule. "If you feel strongly about it, I urge you to contact your commissioner," Klute told Ardolino.

In June 2007, Largo commissioners passed a citywide ban on pole signs. They gave businesses 10 years to replace their signs. The deadline of June 2017 is about 3 1/2 years away.

Scores, if not hundreds, of signs still must be replaced all over the 18-square-mile city.

Since the law was passed, Largo's elected officials haven't shown any interest in changing it. The goal is to reduce sign clutter and improve the look of the city. That's why Largo wants to eliminate tall signs on poles and replace them with monument signs that hug the ground.

Back when the law was passed, there was push-back from the business community. Some merchants chided the city, saying it was trying to become a Dunedin, Safety Harbor or Belleair.

At last week's forum, Klute and other officials went over some details in the law:

• Monument signs can be no taller than 8 feet.

• Largo allows digital message boards on business signs.

• Businesses alongside elevated parts of U.S. 19 can have tall pole signs so that they'll be visible to passing traffic. Clearwater is doing the same thing.

• High-rise buildings are allowed to have larger signs on their facades.

• Regional shopping centers such as Largo Mall can have pole signs. The mall's pole sign along Seminole Boulevard is 47 feet tall.

Cole Robinson, an account manager at Creative Sign Designs of Tampa, spoke at the forum, seeking to convince business owners that a brand new 8-foot monument sign is a cost-effective source of advertising.

But business owners such as Bobby Sherman, president of Essentials Massage Retreat on East Bay Drive, aren't necessarily fans of monument signs. "You can't read them from the street," Sherman said.

As for Ardolino, he argues that Largo's sign law was passed during a different time, when the economy was booming. "I've had to reduce rents," he said. "I'm trying to keep people in business."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

 
Comments

Updated: 19 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for Feb. 20

Tuesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 17, St. Petersburg Cath. 0BaseballGulf Coast HEAT 9, Canterbury 4Calvary Chr. 6, Lakeland Chr. 1
Updated: 1 hour ago
Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

LARGO — An Illinois teacher used confrontation. A campus safety monitor in Seattle attacked with pepper spray and physical force. An assistant football coach in Indiana shouted as he chased him into the woods.All were civilians who took down an activ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida lawmaker’s aide fired after saying outspoken Parkland students are actors

Florida lawmaker’s aide fired after saying outspoken Parkland students are actors

It bubbled up from the darkest online corners then began to take off: conspiracy theories about Parkland students who’ve spent the past week on TV demanding action on the gun violence that killed 17 and reawakened a national debate.By late Tuesday af...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

LARGO — Pinellas County School Board members are not happy about the prospect of having to hand over academic control at three struggling schools to a private company, and paying the firm up to $2 million on top of it. But that’s the course they must...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Career Q&A: Nut allergy is a serious workplace concern

Career Q&A: Nut allergy is a serious workplace concern

Q: My manager has recently started eating nuts at her desk, which is located right next to mine. Unfortunately, I have a serious nut allergy, so any contact with them could produce a life-threatening reaction. Even foods which contain tiny pieces of ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

The parents of Andrew Coffey, the Florida State University student who died from alcohol poisoning after an apparent hazing episode last year, have sued the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and nine of its members for their son’s death.Coffey, who wa...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Cracking the peanut allergy; Clooneys inspire $2M celebrity donations to March For Our Lives; lawyer admits lying to Mueller team; more in U.S. news

Cracking the peanut allergy; Clooneys inspire $2M celebrity donations to March For Our Lives; lawyer admits lying to Mueller team; more in U.S. news

NationCracking the allergyThe first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. California’s Aimmune Therapeutics said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut powder helped children build tolerance in a major ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

The 2017 St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race was celebrated as more than a competitive regatta to Cuba’s capital city of Havana.The relaunch of the maritime competition canceled since 1959 was hailed as a reflection of the detente started under former P...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

NEW PORT RICHEY — The 23-year-old man wanted in connection with sexually assaulting a 71-year-old woman on Monday left behind the clue that deputies said led them right to him: A fingerprint on a Gatorade bottle.Deputies said that and other evidence ...
Updated: 5 hours ago