Tampa Council nixes request to change sign rules
To some, electronic signs are a blight on the city's visual landscape that create public safety issues. To others, they are simply a high-tech way to attract customers.
In 2006, the city council adopted new regulations for business, political campaign and electronic signs. The changes were proposed by a committee of citizens, city officials and business leaders and reflected a nationwide trend to set limits on sign use.
The changes left scores of businesses in the city with nonconforming signs. That was fine with the city, so long as they don't change the signs. But if they want to upgrade to an electronic sign, under the new rules, they have to get a variance from the council.
Many business owners complain that that is way too cumbersome and expensive.
"What the sign code change failed to consider was the effect upon small businesses, with on-site signs, the inability of existing buildings to meet the code," wrote Stephen Michelini, a Tampa land use consultant, in a recent letter to council members. "The hardship created transfers the financial burden to the individual property owner."
Michelini and others asked the council to approve proposed changes to the sign code that would have allowed businesses with nonconforming signs to upgrade to electronic without requesting a variance, as long as they adhere to other sign requirements.
But the council rejected the request by a vote of 5 to 2, with council members Joseph Caetano and Gwen Miller voting in favor of changing the regulations.
"We're killing small businesses," Caetano blasted before the vote was taken.
Tampa Homeowners, An Association of Neighborhoods, which represents dozens of city homeowners associations, opposed the proposed changes because they are concerned that lifting the restrictions could lead to a proliferation of electronic signs across the city.