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County wisely sticks to uncluttered look
By A Times Staff Editorial
Published December 5, 2007
When you travel on vacation, do you marvel at the beauty of where it is you're relaxing? Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher does. He also doesn't vacation locally.
"Why do we pay all this money to go away to a vacation to a place that looks nice? Why can't home look nice?"
Gallagher shared that philosophical question Tuesday morning, saying it's the same inquiry he posed to acquaintances who argued against the county's aesthetic ordinances adopted over the past half dozen years. Part of the charm of out-of-town vacation destinations, Gallagher said, is the missing clutter that permeates much of the county.
Gallagher's observations helped sway a divided County Commission into maintaining the substance of its commercial sign control ordinance, which prohibits pole signs in favor of low-to-the-ground monument signs. Most of the debate centered upon so-called LED signs, the garish, flashing message boards, one of which sits outside a U.S. 19 flea market just south of State Road 52 in Bayonet Point.
Lately, the signs also have appeared outside newly constructed public schools. As a government entity, the district circumvents the county ordinance. Perhaps school officials should think about the civics lesson they're sending to students with that stance.
Tuesday, commissioners considered giving the same government waiver to community development districts and homeowner associations. Their own attorneys, however, said allowing neighborhood groups to use the signs would likely retract the prohibition for everybody.
Commissioners Michael Cox and Jack Mariano championed the signs. (Maybe they vacation in Las Vegas.) Cox said the county ordinance should reflect 21st century technology and not require the old signs in which individual letters are affixed to marquees. Mariano lauded the signs' energy efficiency and said changing the ordinance would be an asset to small businesses. Actually, small businesses might benefit more from commerce from vacationers drawn by the county's scenic beauty.
The majority of the commission correctly declined to budge and agreed with the sentiments of Commissioner Pat Mulieri. She warned amending the ordinance is a step backward for a county that has adopted commercial sign controls, landscape requirements and architectural guidelines for big box stores - not to mention banned new billboards. All of those changes, however predate Cox and Mariano's tenures.
They might advocate energy efficiency and new technology, but they could lean from the old guard. Pasco shouldn't seek a return to the days of almost-anything-goes visual clutter.