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With court ruling in mind, Longboat considers new sign rules

Longboat Key plans June 13 open house to explain the coming changes.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. May 24, 2017
  • Longboat Key
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A 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision continues to limit enforcement of Longboat Key’s sign code, and Planning and Zoning Board Chairwoman B.J. Bishop wants to make sure residents, business owners and real estate agents know about how the town’s rules will be changing.

“We need to be sure the word gets out,” Bishop said. “The suggested sign code will impact most of the businesses in Longboat Key, especially the real estate community.”

The town is hosting an open house regarding proposed changes to the sign code from 10 a.m. to noon June 13 at Town Hall.

In the case  Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed regulation of signs based on content to be unconstitutional. The decision has prompted municipalities across the country to rework their sign codes.

After discussing the ruling at a September 2015 meeting, the Town Commission instructed town staffers to cease all enforcement of content-based regulations for proposed signs. Since then, town staff has concluded that minor adjustments to the code wouldn’t adequately comply with the Supreme Court’s decision, prompting a project to overhaul the rules.

At the May 15 Planning and Zoning Board meeting, members considered new language in the code relating to temporary signs, such as real estate signs and election signs, along with those connected with construction projects, garage sales, special events and coming-soon projects.

As those regulations are content-based, Town Planner Maika Arnold presented the board with a more minimalistic option. Staff recommendations included allowing properties the following:

  •  One 2-square-foot sign at any time.
  •  One 4-square-foot sign when the property is for sale.
  •  An additional 2-square-foot sign to advertise an open house for a property.

“We’re regulating the time, place and manner,” Arnold said.

Board member Phill Younger argued that the recommendations still remained too content-based, and suggested language that would allow for two temporary signs at any time — one at 2 square feet, one at 4 square feet. Designating “for sale” or “open house’’ signs could still run afoul of the high court’s ruling prohibiting content-based regulations.

“If they want to put a 4-foot sign that says either Phill Younger is the greatest or worst person in the world, I don’t care,” Younger said. “If it’s 4 feet, that’s fine.”

In the end, the board directed town staff to move forward with Younger’s suggested language.

Bishop said she hopes the sign code ordinance will be on the agenda and ready for action at the June 20 Planning and Zoning Board meeting, one week after the sign code open house.


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