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Sign law should be ready in August

Residents want the ordinance in place so more businesses won't be grandfathered in.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 21, 2002

Pasco County is a month from presenting the first draft of an ordinance that could drastically reduce the number, size and intrusiveness of roadside business signs.

An out-of-county law firm hired for $28,000 to fine tune the much-delayed ordinance has promised delivery by mid August, Assistant County Attorney Barb Wilhite said Friday.

Calling a sign rule overhaul a "major priority," Wilhite said the ordinance will attempt to duplicate rules in New Tampa that require new businesses to forgo pylon signs in favor of ground-hugging monument signs.

Pasco will grandfather in existing taller signs, but a change of ownership of a building could invoke the tougher sign rules.

"Our major focus is for the monument signs," Wilhite said.

The changes were driven mostly by groups such as Scenic Pasco, fearful that a commercial explosion in places such as Wesley Chapel will leave communities groaning with eyesores.

The issue came to a head with the erection of a 40-foot pole sign in front of a SuperTarget that opened in March at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and County Line Road.

Neighbors worry that the longer the county takes to overhaul the ordinance, the longer developers can play by the old rules.

Developers of the Shoppes of New Tampa already have plans in to put up two 30-foot-tall brick pylon signs.

In April, Pasco planners completed a draft of a new sign ordinance, a patchwork of rules plucked from ordinances elsewhere. It didn't pass the muster, however, of the County Attorney's Office.

"It didn't flow. There were so many inconsistencies," County Attorney Robert Sumner said.

County commissioners hired outside legal help on June 18, mostly to ensure the new law didn't violate the First Amendment.

Tampering with sign sizes and placement necessarily involves issues of government intrusion in free speech.

"We can't make everything so strict that it doesn't make sense," Sumner said.

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