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A few words on signs

The mayors have had their say about a proposed county sign ordinance. Now the county's business people want a turn. Presidents of area chambers of commerce say they will ask county commissioners for an opportunity to comment before a sign ordinance is adopted.

"We have asked for equal time," said Joe Mangus, president of the Greater Largo Chamber of Commerce. "Our views on sign laws are not always the same as the elected officials."

For more than a year, Pinellas County's government leaders have worked on a sign ordinance that would be acceptable to most communities. The 44-page document, covering everything from pennants and pavement markers to banners, balloons and billboards, was completed several weeks ago by the Council of Mayors and is ready to be presented to the County Commission.

Municipal governments would be bound by the ordinance, said David Healey, executive director of the Pinellas Planning Council. However, cities would be allowed to draft their own sign codes as long as they were more restrictive than the countywide ordinance.

Chuck Bohac, chairman of the Pinellas Park Chamber of Commerce sign committee, said that after studying the proposed countywide ordinance, he discovered it to be more restrictive than Pinellas Park's.

Fearing an infringement on the rights of small business people throughout the county, the Pinellas Park Chamber asked to address the Presidents' Council, made up of chamber presidents throughout the county, on the proposed countywide ordinance.

Bohac said the result of that meeting was that David Wilbanks, chairman of the council, agreed to ask county commissioners for a chance to give an opinion on the ordinance before it is enacted. Wilbanks was out of town and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"Signs can be the difference between whether a business survives or doesn't," Bohac said. "The business community should be given an opportunity to express itself."

County Commissioner George Greer said he has not received a request to meet with chamber presidents but would be willing to extend them the courtesy.

"I for one would welcome input from anybody and everybody," Greer said.

However, County Administrator Fred Marquis said he would not be willing to set up a special meeting with chamber presidents.

"I've gotten about a half-dozen requests," he said. "I'm not going to change what the Council of Mayors has prepared."

He said all are welcome to get a copy of the proposal and give the commission their opinion. Public hearings will be held before the proposal is voted on.