Commission seeks sign relief for business owners

Doug Copeland
Anna Maria Commission Chair Doug Copeland proposed the sign ordinance be amended due to the pier closure. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – City Commissioners are proposing lifting the ban on A-frame sandwich board signs due to the impact the closure of the Anna Maria City Pier is having on local businesses.

Amended in 2014, Anna Maria’s sign ordinance currently prohibits A-frame sandwich boards and portable signs.

Commission Chair Doug Copeland proposed a sign ordinance amendment during the Thursday, Dec. 28 meeting. He said the topic came up often while he was out seeking donations from local businesses to provide holiday gifts for city employees.

After praising their generosity, Copeland said many Pine Avenue business owners and managers told him they were suffering because of the pier closure. They also told him they always felt the A-frame signs, allowed until 2014, benefited their businesses.

“My feeling is anything we can do that really doesn’t harm the city, that benefits those businesses during this time, we should consider,” Copeland said.

Sandwich sign
Signs like these may be allowed again in Anna Maria. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Commissioners Carol Carter, Brian Seymour and Dale Woodland supported the idea. Vacationing Commissioner Nancy Yetter did not attend the meeting.

Seymour said he never supported the ban on the A-frame signs, and he felt they got lumped in with the restrictions on real estate signs that he still supports. He said the issue was enforcement and not the signs themselves.

Seymour said the menu boards that are currently allowed benefit restaurants, but they don’t benefit retail operations. Seymour acknowledged that he operates a business on Pine Avenue – the Anna Maria General Store and Deli – but he was speaking on the issue as a whole.

“I thought we were being a little harsh back in 2014 when we did what did, but that was the decision that was made,” Woodland said.

Woodland said any future ordinance revisions that allow A-frame signs could be changed again if the signs prove problematic.

“I agree that we need to make allowances given the issues that we have. I think that we should perhaps put a caveat on there in terms of timing. When things are back to normal, maybe we need to reconsider the changes,” Carter said.

Copeland read aloud the language contained in the sign ordinance before A-frame signs were prohibited: “Each separate legal commercial use is allowed one A-frame sandwich board. Such board shall not exceed 24 inches in width and 36 inches in height including the A-frame. Such sign shall not impede pedestrian traffic or vehicular site distances, shall be allowed during business hours only and shall be removed during inclement weather,” the old ordinance read.

“That’s pretty succinct and concise and defines the size of the sign and what is allowed. You’re not allowed to block the sidewalk; you’re not allowed to put it in the right of way. I would be willing to readopt the language that we eliminated back in 2014,” Copeland said, noting that City Attorney Becky Vose might be able to improve upon it.

The commission reached informal consensus and directed Vose to prepare a proposed sign ordinance amendment for first reading, discussion and public input on Thursday, Jan. 11. The second reading and the commission vote would then likely occur on Jan. 25.