Largo city commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday night to temporarily ease restrictions on the types of signs businesses can use, and moved forward with a plan to extend commission term limits from three years to four.
For several months, local business owners, struggling due to the recession, have been asking the city to help their cause by loosening its sign restrictions meant to reduce street-side clutter.
A petition campaign backed by dozens of businesses, from hair salons to tire stores, succeeded with the final passage of an ordinance Tuesday.
The ordinance allows businesses to display additional types of signs on an approved list for 45 days once every three months after submitting a form to the city.
Mike Novak, owner of the Goodyear Tire Center at 1706 Clearwater-Largo Road N, said he was pleased with the result.
"I know it will help drive more business in this challenging economic time," Novak said.
The ordinance went into effect immediately, and businesses that would like to display additional signs can pick up forms at City Hall starting today.
Commissioners also approved language that is scheduled to be included on ballots in this November's election that would ask residents if they want to extend commissioners' terms from three years to four.
At a cost of about $70,000 per election to the city, commissioners say the move would save money by reducing the number of elections that need to be paid for by the city.
Commissioners debated between two options: one that would add additional time to sitting commissioners' terms so there would be no city election in 2011, and another that would accomplish the same goal but not extend any sitting commissioners' terms.
Commissioners voted 5-2 on the language that would not extend the terms of any sitting commission members. Mayor Patricia Gerard and Commissioner Mary Gray Black voted against.
Black said while she wanted to save money, she felt that extending terms wasn't something residents wanted, and commissioners should drop the idea this year.
"I have heard from a number of people that they are not in favor of four-year terms for commission members," Black said.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes, who voted for the referendum item to be included, said he felt residents would be for the change.
"The people I heard from said the complete opposite. I think it's to the advantage to the taxpayers; $70,000 for an election — that's bad on us," Holmes said.
Ultimately, the question will come to voters to decide.
"They will certainly vote it down if they are not happy with it," Gerard said.