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    City says it prefers smaller signs

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 10, 2002

    LARGO -- City Commissioners want local businesses to help create a better-looking, less-cluttered community. They are encouraging companies to use what's become known as monument signs, which planners say take up less space and make for a cleaner look.

    But the city won't insist on it.

    Commissioners were asked Tuesday whether they prefer requiring all businesses to switch to these less obtrusive signs. During a short work session, they opted to explore offering businesses more incentives instead.

    Many communities have embraced the idea of having businesses advertise along the road by mounting smaller signs on pedestals at ground level instead of hoisting them up to 25 feet in the air on a pole, said Ric Goss, the city's community development director.

    The city has required monument signs for businesses in the redevelopment zone along Clearwater-Largo Road and West Bay Drive, though exceptions are made for some circumstances since 2000.

    At the same time, Largo began offering incentives outside the redevelopment zone for other businesses to use the signs. Since then, more than a dozen businesses have taken advantage.

    City planner Peter Pensa said a large business that traditionally requests a 150-square-foot sign on a pole could opt instead for two, 12-foot monuments near the road. If it did that, the city would allow it to increase the size of its sign by 5 percent.

    If a business opts for two, 8-foot monuments, the building sign could be 10 percent larger.

    The new Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse planned for the corner of Ulmerton and Ridge is among those agreeing to use them, Goss said, while Home Depot has decided against it.

    The city could insist all businesses use the signs by adopting a policy requiring monument signs, but Goss said that might steer away some businesses or lead others to show up at City Hall seeking exceptions.

    "It all depends on how much you want to put up with," he said. "It's going to have to be a value you support, grasp and stay with."

    Goss said some will embrace the idea. Lower signs can be less expensive to maintain as light bulbs can be changed without hauling in a truck.

    A sign 20 feet off the ground may be easy to see from afar when it stands alone.

    "But when everyone sits up that high, you really can't see it," Goss said.

    Without much discussion, commissioners agreed to hold off on making it policy and directed the staff to research more incentives.

    -- Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or sandler@sptimes.com.

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