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Longboat Key Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 10 years ago

TOP STORY, May: Sign code irks business owners

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Throughout the holiday week, will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day fro a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.


Every morning for five years, a Blue Dolphin Café employee has placed the same portable sign that displays the day’s specials on the sidewalk outside of the Centre Shops restaurant.

But on Monday, May 11, Blue Dolphin owner Rob Ball was told the sign, which the restaurant industry refers to as a sandwich board, is not allowed per the town’s sign code.

It’s not the first time Ball has had to deal with sign-code issues.

In 2004, Ball said he was assessed a $500 fine when an employee placed a sandwich board near the entrance of the Centre Shops plaza to get the attention of motorists.

So, when Ball attended the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board’s second public hearing regarding a review of the town’s sign code Tuesday, May 12, he was annoyed to discover that several other sign violations still exist along Gulf of Mexico Drive. And they have yet to receive fines.

“I have placed my sign in the threshold of where I rent for five years with no problem and now it’s illegal,” said Ball, who asked the planning board to review the ban of portable signs when it looks at the sign code this summer.

And, after seeing that a sign presentation made by town planner Steve Shield displayed violations at other businesses such as Michael Saunders & Co. and Harry’s Continental Kitchens, Ball also urged the planning board to come back with something that will be enforced Key-wide.

“I’m in agreement to keep our sign culture and our upscale environment intact,” Ball said. “But unless you want a community with large iron gates on both ends of the island, let businesses do business here.”
Ball wasn’t the only business owner who believes the sign code needs revision.

Alan Moore, co-owner of Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant & Marina, alerted the planning board that if someone buys the vacant Chevron gas station property, 6990 Gulf of Mexico Drive, and decides they don’t want to keep the blue-and-white sign that alerts motorists of his nearby restaurant at 800 Broadway, he’s in trouble.

“We can only have a sign there (per town code), because the former gas-station owner agreed to place it on his property,” Moore said. “If new owners don’t want it there, I’m left hanging in the wind.”

Brad King, general manager of St. Pete Beach-based Palm Post of Florida, said several Key residents were fuming when his company was hired by area real-estate companies to pull “For Sale” signs out of the right of way around town.

The real-estate signs, along with the campaign signs that were yanked all over town in March, have spurred a revision of the sign code.

“In some instances, we are being told to put the signs right up against the home,” said King, who said the signs are so far back that it causes people to stop on Gulf of Mexico Drive to try and make out the phone numbers.

King urged the planning board to define the right of way more clearly.

Planning Board Chairman David Brenner, who presided over the board for the final time, urged his board to put together a list of sign-code issues it would like to address in future meetings and provide the Town Commission with an outline of what it would like to review this summer.

“After receiving the commission’s approval, you can begin to draft a revised ordinance that the residents and the Town Commission can review this fall during public hearings,” Brenner said.

The planning board, which will officially appoint two new members next week, will decide how to proceed with the sign code at its Tuesday, May 19 regular meeting.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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