Pasco County has strict ordinances against temporary signs, but the proliferation of tall advertising flags known as “feather signs” has some county commissioners looking to make those ordinances even more restrictive.
However, Pasco County commissioners said they would wait at least long enough for the homebuilding community to weigh in — an industry that heavily depends on such temporary advertisement.
“We’re hoping that you’ll allow us to put together a policy that provides us a pathway for compliance,” said Jennifer Doerfel, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association, which represents homebuilders locally. “We do not want to see blight, and we certainly don’t want to see tattered signs, and we’re part of this community, too. We want to make sure this looks great, because that’s what attracts buyers to our homes.”
The signs have become common in front of businesses, especially on U.S. 41 through the center part of Pasco, where retailers fight to grab attention from a heavily traveled highway artery. They are usually anchored into the ground like flags, and are noticeable by how they freely flap in the wind.
Pasco typically requires a temporary sign permit and a limit for how long they can be displayed. However, the signs usually addressed in that ordinance have been temporary banners, which are typically secured on all sides. Feather signs have been virtually overlooked by the ordinance, and county officials are suggesting implementing an outright ban on those types of signs.
“Feather banners have two key issues, one being the visual impact,” said Rebecca Stonefield of the county’s planning and development department. “There are also general safety concerns associated with them. If they are not anchored appropriately, they could fly out and become a hazard.”
The planning and development department recommended not including the feather signs with other temporary signs the county allows. However, that could create some legal problems for the county in how a court might differentiate between the types of signs.
“Do you believe that it’s defensible, to attempt to defend in court, the difference between a banner and a feather banner?” Commissioner Ted Schrader asked. “I see it as being the same thing.”
County attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder disagreed, however.
“They are two different styles of advertising, and there is a physical difference,” he said. “It’s easy to define.”
Pasco is a community with hundreds of new homes under construction, many in growing communities. The builders depend on attracting attention from the main road, especially since their product might not be as apparent because it is hidden inside a neighborhood, Doerfel said.
“The reason that you see as many feather signs as you do is that it is the last option that we have to be compliant with the sign ordinance,” Doerfel said, referring to the quantity and time limits for temporary banners. “We have to be able to attract people to our communities, and most of these communities are not even on the GPS. Most of the people are finding model centers through signs.”
Mike Southward, the local division president of Beazer Homes, said unlike standard retailers, homebuilders typically don’t jump onto the radar of someone looking for a new house until after they are inside a neighborhood they want to move to.
“If you look into the buyer’s psyche, they do a lot of research when buying a home,” he said. “They look for things like schools and shopping and lifestyle, and they will go and drive around.”
It’s not until they start driving the area that they start looking for builders and communities, and that’s where having good signage helps get their attention, Southward said.
“If we don’t have an opportunity to direct them into our communities, we lost an opportunity to gain a customer,” he said.
How the county handles signs in the near future is something the commission should explore slowly and deliberately, Commissioner Pat Mulieri said.
“We receive tons of email, and we’re pushing the idea that we want to be premier,” she said. “We don’t want to be shoddy looking, but we also want business, who are also applauding the fact that now we have people buying houses. I don’t know what the problem would be to put this off for a month or six weeks to get other ideas and work from there.”
The commission will look at a potential revision of the temporary sign ordinance again at its July 22 meeting.
Published June 18, 2014
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