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Pasco might ban feather advertising banners

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Published:   |   Updated: June 6, 2014 at 09:34 AM

— It seems like everyone from car lots to coffee shops, luxury homebuilders to barbershops, has used them at some point. But feather banners could soon be prohibited in Pasco County.

Fresh on the heels of a daylong workshop dedicated to code enforcement, Pasco commissioners are set to vote Tuesday on changes to the county’s sign ordinance meant to crack down on illegal signs cluttering the county’s roadways.

Zoning Administrator Carol Clarke said rather than treating the single-pole flutter flags as temporary signs, the county should just ban them completely. Same goes for those inflatable, dancing bubble men.

After a public hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Dade City, commissioners will consider a resolution finding the flags “have the potential to distract drivers, obstruct visibility, become airborne hazards in wind conditions, and deteriorate rapidly in the Florida sun creating visual blight.”

For Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, who founded “Scenic Pasco” 15 years ago to fight billboards, the strict new rules can’t come soon enough. To her, all those flags, signs and balloons are “cheesy.” They distract drivers, and they’re one of the reasons residents ranked Pasco one of the least attractive communities in the nation.

She recalls driving a prospective business owner down Wesley Chapel Boulevard, and at one intersection, she counted 22 feather banners. “I just thought, ‘Wow. This isn’t how we want to present ourselves. It isn’t premier,’” she said.

To small business owners, like Station Deli’s Peter Rovira, the flags are a vital, and cheap, form of advertising. Without them, or the inflatable hot-air balloon sign, drivers would speed by on State Road 54 or fill their tanks at the Shell station, and never know there was a full-service restaurant inside the convenience store.

“They’re very important,” he said. “They’re the only way a small business can advertise without taking out a billboard.”

Commissioner Henry Wilson said he’s reluctant to create new rules that could harm small businesses. “I have mixed feelings,” he said. “I want the county to look nice, but not if the trade-off is that it forces a small businesses to close.”

The ban would affect multimillion-dollar corporations, as well.

Larry Morgan, CEO of Morgan Auto Group, said it would send the message that Pasco is anti-business.

“Auto dealers provide the largest amount of sales tax revenue in the state of Florida, and everyone wants to come to us for charitable contributions,” he said. “But when it comes to regulations, they just want to beat us to death.”

Morgan said the feather banners provide value to all kinds of businesses — not just auto dealers — and they make the community look vibrant, as long they’re done tastefully.

“That’s the secret,” Morgan said. “They should be uniform, in good condition, and they need to be appropriately displayed. If it’s done that way, I don’t see that it has any harm on the environment or the appearance of the neighborhood.”

If commissioners approve the new sign rules, advertising balloons like the one outside Station Deli, would only be permitted for 14 consecutive days at a time and only twice a year.

The sign ordinance currently allows businesses to display “temporary” banners and balloons for 35 days, and up to four times a year. Business owners have been allowed to renew the permit, meaning the sign could be on display for more than four months and still be considered temporary. Not anymore.

Hardy Gillespie, who develops high-end apartment complexes, said his company, A.G. Spanos, doesn’t use feather banners. But they do utilize banners at their properties, so the proposal to restrict those from 140 days per year to 28 days would have a negative impact on their business.

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