ANNA MARIA – An emergency sign moratorium is now in effect in the city of Anna Maria.
Enacted by the city commission during an emergency meeting on Thursday, March 21, the temporary moratorium prohibits businesses from erecting new A-frame sandwich signs. It also prevents the city from accepting, reviewing, processing and approving any new sign permit applications.
The moratorium and accompanying emergency ordinance will expire in 60 days – or sooner if the commission finishes amending the city’s regular sign ordinance before then.
These measures were enacted in part due to concerns that each of the 28 or so vendors sharing space inside the Pineapple Junktion co-op on Pine Avenue could theoretically have their own A-frame signs.
Commissioner Doug Copeland said shared commercial units are becoming a trend in Anna Maria. He noted that Commissioner Brian Seymour’s Anna Maria General Store & Deli shares space with Dips Ice Cream, and other Pine Avenue businesses have engaged in or are considering space-sharing partnerships.
Copeland said the commission’s intent is to get a grip on this potential sign issue before it becomes a problem.
A city-issued sign permit is not required for an A-frame sign. The current Anna Maria sign ordinance prohibits A-frame signs, but the commission, for the second year in a row, is allowing each business to have one such sign.
The recently-renewed commission resolution allows each business to have one A-frame sandwich board sign. Including the frame, these signs are not to exceed 24 inches in width and 36 inches in height. A-frame signs cannot be placed in the public right of way and/or impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic or sightlines. The signs are only allowed during business hours and they must be removed during inclement weather.
During Thursday’s emergency meeting, Commissioner Amy Tripp asked why new A-frame signs would not be allowed but existing signs would still be allowed.
“Because of multiple businesses sharing the same units,” commission chair Brian Seymour said of the commission’s concerns.
“I think our one concern was there could be a multitude of signs on one property,” Commissioner Carol Carter later added.
Anna Maria Rocks souvenir and gift shop owner Bill Arthur expressed his support for A-frame signs.
“The signs really help business, I don’t see a big problem with them,” he said.
Arthur noted A-frame signs are allowed in other cities. He asked why Anna Maria banned them in the first place and he encouraged the commission to allow them on a permanent basis.
Seymour said when a previous commission passed the sign ordinance a few years ago the commission majority felt there were too many A-frame signs. There were concerns back then about some businesses using multiple signs and some signs being illegally placed in city rights of way.
Seymour referenced the current A-frame sign allowance and said he doesn’t see the harm in allowing A-frame signs to remain on a permanent basis. Mayor Dan Murphy agreed with Seymour’s position.
Copeland told Arthur the sign ordinance changes would be discussed at future commission meetings and he encouraged Arthur and other business owners to participate in those public discussions.
The agenda for the Thursday, March 28 meeting does not include sign ordinance discussion.
The commission requested the sign moratorium and emergency sign ordinance when discussing potential sign ordinance changes on March 14. A-frame signs are not the only source of concern. Commissioners also want to revisit the total square footage of signage allowed per commercial property and how that footage is calculated.
Commissioners also expressed a desire to enact a one-sign-per-property limit on construction sites because some sites contain multiple signs for contractors, sub-contractors and service providers. They also want to revisit the location requirements for vacation rental signs, for sale signs or other signs allowed on residential properties without a sign permit.