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New Port Richey takes steps to curb vehicles masquerading as signs for businesses

Ordinance changes will define when city can enforce sign rules against vehicles and impose limits on camping.
Trailers like this one on U.S. 19 sporting an advertisement for a bakery businesses will be better defined and regulated under a ordinance under review by the New Port Richey City Council.
Trailers like this one on U.S. 19 sporting an advertisement for a bakery businesses will be better defined and regulated under a ordinance under review by the New Port Richey City Council. [ City of New Port Richey ]
Published Jun. 23, 2020

NEW PORT RICHEY — The New Port Richey City Council has taken tough stands and spent significant funds to elevate the city’s image and focus on economic development. But there is still work to be done, according to City Manager Debbie Manns.

After recent rule changes governing automobile sales and residential motels, the council last week gave its initial blessing to two new ordinances, addressing the appearance of the city’s commercial district, especially along U.S. Highway 19, and the impact that the homeless are having downtown and elsewhere.

While the huge doughnuts pictured on the side of a trailer parked in a plaza beside U.S. 19 signal a business has baked goods for sale, it doesn’t demonstrate high community standards for promoting the business. Manns explained the new ordinance proposed for such vehicles used as signs is going to address that.

The changes provide definitions clarifying when the city can enforce its sign rules against a vehicle. They include placement of a vehicle within 35 feet from the road or perpendicular to the road or in an area not designated for parking; if the vehicle is not registered or is inoperable; if it’s not a typical vehicle used for the operation of the business; or if it is wrapped or painted in a way to promote advertising of a business.

The staff report to the council states, “there is a need for minimizing the number of signs that are allowed. The justification is that excessive signage creates an aesthetically unpleasant and distracting environment which can lead to driver distraction and a potential danger to the public safety.‘'

“I’m so excited to see this. It’s a start,‘' said Deputy Mayor Jeff Starkey, who noted that he has seen box trucks parked for a year in one place, blocking the view of drivers.

“If you need a box truck to advertise your business, you need a new business model. It looks terrible,‘' Starkey said. “It’s not fair to the businesses that run their business and their marketing correctly.‘'

Mayor Rob Marlowe said that the situation is pervasive and getting it under control is overdue.

“It appears that the sole function of these trucks is to evade the current prohibitions on oversized signage,‘' he said.

The second ordinance also got unanimous support from the council members. It outlaws camping inside the city, except in approved campgrounds and when residents want to camp in their own backyards.

Manns said that homelessness in the city has negatively affected both residents and businesses. The ordinance also addresses another issue — people camping on vacant sites around the community adjacent to residential areas, disturbing the peace of homeowners who have to listen to disruptions and loud generators.

In her memo to the council, Manns said the ordinance was meant to address homelessness and negative impacts of inappropriate camping, because “camping at either an inappropriate time or location is an impediment to positive economic activity.‘'

Marlowe said he was contacted just after the start of the coronavirus outbreak when homeowners complained about campers on private undeveloped property throwing a party and running a loud generator all night.

“It’s silly that we have to come up with this, but we’ve had some serious issues with people camping,‘' he said.

City Council will consider finalizing both ordinances July 7.