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Largo commission mulls relaxed sign rules as small-business stimulus

In the midst of weathering a lengthy slump in business, local entrepreneurs have been straining to drum up more customers.

But for many small businesses in Largo, a quick and inexpensive way to do so — erecting more eye-catching signs outside — has been out of reach because of city restrictions, business owners say. An ordinance prohibits any advertising devices other than a few onsite signs.

After months of pressure from business owners, city commissioners sat down at a work session Tuesday night to discuss relaxing the city ordinance.

Community Development Director Carol Stricklin said among the ideas currently on the table include temporarily allowing some currently banned signs, such as banners or flag signs, for a year, with each business able to display the signs for 30 days out of every 90-day period. Another question was whether to lift restrictions citywide, or only in special development districts.

While business owners have been pushing for more roadside signs for a one-year period, commissioners concurred that a more regulated option would be a better compromise.

Each weighed in on the direction they wanted the city to take in the coming weeks.

Commissioner Gigi Arntzen agreed with most of the proposed options, but said she still wasn't sold that the changes were needed at all.

Vice Mayor Woody Brown said despite the pressure from business owners, the city shouldn't completely bow to their demands.

Commissioner Robert Murray disagreed, and pushed for more liberal plans, including allowing extra signs for 45 days every three months rather than 30.

"It's the next sale that could be the one that puts them in the black or in the red. I'm certainly one of those that shop from looking at signs," Murray said.

"I think it's a fallacy to say these signs are going to make or break a business, and I'm a business owner," Brown said. "I don't want our city to look like our county does when there are signs all over the place."

Commissioner Mary Gray Black agreed with the city staff recommendation that there should be a small, one-time fee for business owners who want to put up extra signs.

Commissioner Harriet Crozier said a citywide relief plan would likely be the best option, as did Commissioner Curtis Holmes.

Largo commission mulls relaxed sign rules as small-business stimulus 05/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 9:46pm]
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