Thursday, April 25, 2019

Planning Board Reviews New Sign Ordinance


Marv Needles makes a point while Attorney Kathryn Mehaffey takes notes. Photos by Steve Stefanides

Marv Needles makes a point while Attorney Kathryn Mehaffey takes notes. Photos by Steve Stefanides

The Marco Island Planning Board met on Friday, November 17, 2017 and their focus was on the issue of signs and the present sign ordinance. The issue was brought forward by Council Chair Jared Grifoni shortly after his election in 2016.

Grifoni raised the issue in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (2015). That ruling held that any regulation of signage must be “content neutral,” which applies to all types of signage. Instead of content, the focus of a regulation must be on time, place and manner, as it relates to signage.

Kathryn Mehaffey representing the city attorney’s office addressing board.

Kathryn Mehaffey representing the city attorney’s office addressing board.

Attorney Kathryn Mehaffey of Weiss- Serota, the city’s legal firm, led the board through a detailed conversation regarding a draft ordinance her office created, as the board conducted its review.

She pointed out the right of a governmental body to provide for a permitting process, but also noted that the process must be clearly defined from beginning to end, including definite time frames for each step, and deadlines for both the governing body and the applicant. Size, height, setback, illumination, separation, location and display method may all be defined by the governing body, as well as form/sign type.

One of the longest exchanges related to the placement of signage into the right of way, as is the present custom. The recommendation from Mehaffey was to eliminate the placement of those signs. Her rationale was based upon the “all or none” rule, which would require any and all signs to be placed there, with no options left for the community. “This is going to be a very difficult area to address,” said Mehaffey.

Representatives from the real estate community raised concerns, as it restricts some of the flexibility they presently have for open house signage. Other groups that would be impacted are the many social organizations that hold fundraisers. Those groups rely upon the temporary signs to alert the community of the event and location, said Marv Needles when he rose to speak.

Commercial non-conforming, but permitted signs would be dealt with by allowing a grace period before being required to be brought into conformance. Erik Condee brought up the issue of cost to those businesses, and questioned how long that grace period might extend.

Board member Joe Rola asked about non-conforming and non-permitted signs. “That becomes a function of enforcement,” said Mehaffey.

The proposed ordinance exempted government from the regulations imposed on private individuals and businesses. “I really don’t like the fact that any governmental agency is exempt from the rules it lays down everyone else,” said Erik Condee when he commented on that portion of the proposed regulations.

A discussion was held regarding political signs, and once again, the difficulty of where, how long they could stay, how large and when they should come down was the focus of the discussions.

The board will again take up this issue at its Friday, December 15th meeting starting at 9 AM in city council chambers.

For up-to-date news regarding Marco Island and beyond be sure to check www.coastalbreezenews.com for all your breaking and community updates.

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