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    Safety Harbor loosens sign rules

    Businesses will get some leeway on using portable signs to lure customers.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2001

    SAFETY HARBOR -- Businesses along Main Street soon will have a little more room to stretch their advertising reach. City commissioners approved a recommendation Monday easing restrictions on where signs can be placed.

    Sandwich board or A-frame signs particularly have been the subject of controversy among city officials and business owners because of their potential to clutter downtown sidewalks.

    "Safety Harbor is a very quaint town, and we certainly don't want ugly signs to ruin the city," said Anita Rao, owner of the Center for Yoga Shakti. "But by the same token, we need to have a way to put up signs to let people know we are here."

    Safety Harbor has had an ordinance banning portable signs. But last October the city formed a task force to examine the sign issue and search for acceptable ways merchants could advertise their businesses.

    "We are trying to create an atmosphere that is a little bit different and makes the town unique," said Ron Pianta, community development director. "But it is time to start looking at the marketing aspect and business retention."

    The task force recommended that sandwich board signs be allowed and that the city install and maintain kiosk signs with a business directory, as well as install directional signs on Main Street. Any portable sign, however, must be close to the business and must be taken down when it closes. Commissioners approved that recommendation.

    Linda Marshall, economic development officer for the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce and member of the task force, said she got some of the ideas from cities like Dade City, Kissimmee and DeLand, where city governments allow such signs.

    In Dunedin, for example, signs are not allowed in commercial areas other than the city's designated redevelopment area or when a business holds a grand opening. Even then, the signs are limited to the business' property.

    "They do extremely well and their sandwich boards are tastefully done," Marshall said. "For the most part they don't have any problems with it. Hopefully this is something we will be able to do here."

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