Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Largo merchants plead for less restrictive sign ordinances

Signs vie for the attention of a cyclist Thursday on East Bay Drive in downtown Largo. Strict ordinances curb clutter but may put some businesses at risk.


Signs vie for the attention of a cyclist Thursday on East Bay Drive in downtown Largo. Strict ordinances curb clutter but may put some businesses at risk.

LARGO — In an economy where every customer counts, many local business owners would like to begin turning to special signs and other roadside attractions, like balloons, to lure in extra sales.

But with Largo's nearly 3-year-old sign ordinance prohibiting most eye-catching gimmicks holding fast, many merchants are out of luck and putting up a fight for the right to enhance storefront advertisements.

"It's been real tough. The sign ordinances don't allow us to properly advertise our business," said Steve Geltzer, manager of Goodyear Tire Center at 1706 Clearwater-Largo Road N. "The thing about it is having some sort of eye-catching sign or device that will drive business."

Under current Largo codes, most businesses are restricted to a single sign on a pedestal-like platform that rises no higher than 8 feet. Any signs that stood before the ordinance passed in 2007 have seven more years to comply, and any new signs must meet the new standard.

Geltzer said for his business and many others in Largo, an extra roadside sign announcing discount oil changes or tire sales would be a boon.

"If we could draw two or three more cars to our shop, that would make a big difference," Geltzer said. "An eye-catching sign would definitely be a huge help to our business and businesses here locally."

According to Joseph Stefko, owner of Hair Jungle salon at 154 Sixth St. NW, more than 75 merchants in the city have signed a petition to lobby for changes to the codes, which some have called overly restrictive in aiming to reduce visual clutter along Largo's streets.

Stefko said he'd like to work out a compromise with the city. Some of the ideas he'd like to see implemented include business owners agreeing on a uniform flag-type temporary sign to announce a sale, and temporary allowances for special events.

"You can't have any balloons right now. But if you're having a grand opening or a special, why can't you have balloons, only for a day? It's hard right now," Stefko said.

Mayor Patricia Gerard said the city isn't tone deaf to the needs and desires of merchants, and said some help may be coming in the near future.

"We're willing to look at some things," she said. "We understand where they're coming from. In the meantime, we'll try to get them some relief."

A roundtable meeting is planned for next month to discuss the issue.

But since businesses everywhere are seeing fewer customers, Gerard cautioned that while more advertising could help small businesses, restrictions on signs aren't the root of the problem.

"I think the businesses blame the sign ordinance, but I don't think that's the whole problem," Gerard said. "I have some interest in seeing if there are ways to help without disassembling our entire sign ordinance."

Andrew Bertucci, executive director of the U.S. Sign Council, an organization that researches and lobbies for the sign industry, said restrictions on primary business signs often lead business owners to resort to desperate measures when times get tough.

"The unintended consequence is before they go out of business, the owner will do what he has to do," Bertucci said. "They will resort to temporary banners."

As to the effectiveness of things like dancing roadside characters, glaring sale signs and fluttering streamers to attract attention, he said the results would likely be only temporary.

"Very frequently, the owner will put them up and get a couple weeks use before he is cited and has to take them down," Bertucci said. "They are probably effective for a limited amount of time. On the other hand, I can't say they make any sort of lasting contribution."

Largo merchants plead for less restrictive sign ordinances 04/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 5:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  5. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.