City Council voted unanimously Thursday to move forward with an ordinance that restricts renovations of non-conforming signs, human signs and helps preserve historic signs. That vote, however, was on a placeholder for changes that will be put into the ordinance during the second reading in November.
Large portions of the changes to the sign ordinance were met without much opposition, such as preserving historic signs in St. Petersburg. Examples of historic signs include the Kress Building, World Liquors, Banyan Motel, El Cap, Sunken Gardens and the old downtown YMCA.
The proposed changes would allow historic signs to have "chasing" and "flashing" lights that are not otherwise allowed on any other city signs. Historic signs that are beyond repair, Lazzara said, could also be eligible for replacement with a similar sign that would follow the historic sign codes.
However, members of the business community and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce took issue with roughly half the changes because they were not "business friendly."
Human signs, or humans holding signs, was a key issue. In the proposed ordinance those holding signs would be limited to be one per property and on private property only. They would also not be allowed to spin, twirl or otherwise move the sign around.
Council member Karl Nurse said the city shouldn't regulate "tackiness" but safety. He proposed allowing the human signs to spin/twirl/etc but maybe not so close to the curb.
Representatives from Liberty Tax Service said passing those restrictions would kill jobs in a bad economy. Michael Bass, who owns his own Liberty Tax Service franchise said the restrictions are unnecessary and not a safety issue.
"If you go too far away from the curb, there efficiency would be diminished, therefore limiting their effectiveness," Bass said.
Local business owner and city council candidate Dr. David McKalip said the ordinance shouldn't just be amended for final reading, it should be voted down.
"Vote this thing down in its entirely and go back and get it right," he said. "Respect the First Amendment.
McKalip said a lot of the public input has been ignored and there is a myth that there is a safety issue at hand.
"I promise you, I will sue this city" if the city passes the strict sign ordinance, McKalip said.
Chris Steinocher, head of the St. Petersburg Chamber, also took issue with the proposed time change of electronic message signs. Currently the messages can shift every six seconds while the city admin proposal was five minutes.
He said now allowing human signs and having strict electronic message restrictions would "discourage business from moving here," he said. " ... They will go somewhere else."
Both arguments swayed council enough for council members to ask city staff to rewrite the ordinance regarding human signs and electronic message centers. The new proposal will be voted on in November.
Council member Jeff Danner said a refined ordinance could be voted on in two weeks.
"We adopt the ordinance as drafted for tonight, give (staff) two weeks, come back with some clear definitions," in regards to setback with human signs from the curb, dwell time for message on electronic signs and 25 or 50 percent construction for non-conforming signs.