Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Commission to discuss sign regulations

  • By
  • | 11:00 p.m. November 16, 2014
  • Sarasota
  • News
  • Share

What is a sign?

The City Commission will grapple with that existential question Monday evening, as the city’s existing regulations have led to sparring over messages affixed to downtown light poles.

Michael Barfield, a paralegal and vice president of the ACLU of Florida, has sought the removal of several A-frame signs from Main Street. Those signs, posted by the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association, attempt to discourage panhandling, citing a claim by homelessness consultant Robert Marbut that 93% of the money given to individuals on the street goes to drugs or alcohol.

Those efforts proved unsuccessful, because the city determined the boards did not fit the definition of “sign” found in the code — and thus, the city had no control over their placement. As a rebuttal, Barfield posted his own signs, criticizing downtown merchants and the anti-panhandling campaign.

Ron Soto, president of the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association, removed those signs from downtown streets. The signs have sparked a feud between Soto and Barfield, both of whom have argued that law enforcement should reprimand the other.

Barfield has also criticized the process by which private organizations, such as the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, enter into an agreement with the city to post banners on light poles.

Currently, the zoning code defines a sign as “any object, device, display or structure which is used to advertise, identify, display or direct or attract attention to an object, person, establishment, product, service, event or location.”

Today, City Attorney Robert Fournier will provide commissioners with options for potentially addressing the ongoing issue. Agenda documents for the meeting suggest two choices: maintaining the status quo, or revising the zoning code so that all private signs — not just those that meet the current definition — are prohibited from being posted in the public right of way.

Also on the agenda for this evening’s City Commission meeting:

+ Commissioners will hear a request to waive required contributions to affordable housing and transit development funds for a proposed development at 1445 Second Street. Entrepreneur Jesse Biter is behind the plans for the 10-story, 168-unit apartment complex.

The full agenda for Monday's meeting can be found on the city's website.

Contact David Conway at [email protected].


Related Articles