BROOKSVILLE — When Jay Tinkham got a visit from a Brooksville code enforcement official in February, he was confused. He was told that three "feather" banners advertising his business off of Cortez Boulevard had to come down immediately or he could be fined $500.
For Tinkham, the owner of Lizzy T's coffee shop, it just didn't seem fair.
The banners, which flutter in the breeze, had only been up since the shop's December opening. They were attracting customers and bringing new traffic into several businesses in Horse Lake Plaza.
Tinkham said when he took the flags down, business dropped so much that he was forced to lay off employees.
All of which is why he decided to go before the City Council in May to challenge the city's code that limits businesses to one temporary freestanding sign per parcel for 30 days.
"It's just too strict," Tinkham said. "I understand there's a need for sign regulations, but we're in a tough economic downfall right now. Businesses are hurting."
On Monday, the City Council looked over a draft proposal that would ease some of the restrictions on temporary signs. The proposal will come back before the council for a first reading on July 18.
Under the proposal, new businesses would be able to obtain a $50 permit that would allow the display of one banner or fabric sign on private property for a period of up to 90 days.
Existing businesses would be able to display banners for up to 30 days every six months. The ordinance would sunset after one year.
Council member Lara Bradburn said the ordinance isn't meant to supersede the city's existing sign rules. Rather, it's a temporary measure intended to give struggling businesses a boost.
"I don't think anyone can disagree that businesses are in need of help right now," Bradburn said. "(The ordinance) is an easy, short-term thing to the city can do for them. Hopefully, the economy will improve to the point where these kinds of measures are not needed anymore."
However, council member Joe Bernardini said that while he realizes the challenges that businesses are currently facing, he worries about an explosion of temporary signs along city streets should the council adopt the proposed ordinance.
"It boils down to what kind of city you want to have," Bernardini said. "We have a good sign ordinance that's fair to every one. I just don't know how many more signs you need to have."
Bernardini said that based on his calculations, the proposed temporary sign ordinance would allow just that and cited Killingsworth Plaza, a strip mall on Cortez Boulevard with 25 businesses as a possible worst-case scenario.
"If every one of those businesses got a permit to put up a feather sign, it would look like a circus. That's not a vision that people looking to move here want to see."
Tinkham said he doesn't want create clutter, either. He removes his signs every night before he goes home, and takes them down during heavy weather to prevent them from being blown into passing traffic.
"I'm not saying that there shouldn't be any rules regarding signs," he said. "All I'm asking for is a little leeway. I'm a coffee shop owner who's trying to let people know that my business is here. It's as simple as that."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]