City Commission hesitant to allow new wayfaring signs downtown
In the wake of last fall’s “signgate” situation, city officials and members of the newly formed Merchants of Safety Harbor (MOSH) organization decided to work together in order to promote the businesses in the downtown district.
After officials held a town hall meeting and then proposed a number of minor changes to the city’s existing sign code, MOSH board member Clyde Hutching, co-owner of Edgewater & Main, embarked on a mission to find new ways to promote local businesses that fell within the confines of the sign code restrictions.
The result was a capital project that would use CRA funds to replace, and in some cases install new, wayfaring signs in and around the downtown area, a multi-phased plan that would see three new, lighted signs, featuring a comprehensive business directory as well as additional advertising space, installed in town at an estimated cost of $12,200 in the first year.
However, the plan was put on hold due to questions about the nature of the advertising that could be allowed on the signs when it was presented to the City Commission on Monday.
“I still have a difficult time using public right of way city property to advertise for local businesses,” Mayor Andy Steingold said when the agenda item came up during Monday’s commission meeting. “It doesn’t strike a good chord with me.”
Commissioner Cliff Merz said he didn’t believe the organization should utilize funds designated for businesses in the downtown district to be used for a feature that could promote businesses outside of the area, or even outside the city.
“When I first read it, I liked the idea,” he said, “but I still have concerns about using CRA and CRD money for businesses outside of the area.”
City Attorney Alan Zimmet quickly stepped in and informed the commission that they would be on shaky legal ground if they opted to restrict the types of ads that could be placed on the signs.
“It’s a much more complicated legal issue than it appears on its face,” Zimmet said, citing an instance where the PSTA was sued after a similar partnership agreement. “The more we impose regulations, the higher the risk goes.”
While Commissioner Janet Hooper and Vice-Mayor Andy Zodrow both said they support the new signs, Mayor Steingold asked city staff to do more research before the commission votes on the proposal.
“I certainly need more information from Mr. Zimmet,” he said.
After the meeting, Hutchings spoke to Safety Harbor Connect about the issue.
“No decision was made because we want to put advertising on the signs, because the advertising would pay for the electricity, maintenance and other expenses,” Hutchings said by phone on Wednesday.
“We didn’t want the city or residents to have to pay for it, so we designed them to be pretty self sufficient when it comes to covering the associated costs.”
Hutchings estimates the electric bill for the LED-lighted signs would be roughly $20.00 per month, but he said the regular updates to the comprehensive business directories on the back of the signs would be very costly to maintain.
“The quarterly updates for the business directories would be about $5,000 a year, and the advertising would pay for that,” he said.
“There are a lot of businesses in the district, and they change out frequently, so it would be a lot of legwork, and that’s why we have the advertising. We wanted it to be an affordable way for small business owners to advertise their business in town.
As for allowing businesses outside of the city to advertise on the signs, Hutchings said that was not what the MOSH board members had in mind.
“MOSH’s fist priority is to promote downtown Safety Harbor, and it would not behoove us to promote a business in Clearwater,” he said. “So we’ll just have to wait and see what the commission decides.”
- Safety Harbor officials recommend changes to the city’s sign code
- Safety Harbor merchants irate over “Signgate”
- Merchants, officials meet to discuss Safety Harbor sign code
If a business fails because it can’t pay the rent, and leaves a vacancy, maybe that business never had a realistic business plan. Not everyone who calls themselves a business sufficiently thinks through exactly how they are going to make a profit. Maybe business people should let those landlords who hold out for exorbitant rents live with their vacancies. After a while, the landlord’s business plan may need to be modified to lower the rent. When it gets low enough, there will no longer be a vacancy. Not everyone who owns real estate is a good business person. And not everyone who has a store or real estate benefits the community. Commercial property owners and their tenants act like they have greater value than other citizens, but in my opinion, they should have no greater claim on tax monies or consideration than any other citizen. I lived downtown until two years ago, there were some vacant buildings, but it certainly was not a cemetery. I really miss it. A bunch of signs will not make it better–we all know what merchants are there. If you want people outside Safety Harbor to know, buy an ad in a cheap local paper or coupon paper. Don’t expect the public to subsidize you with its funds or resources. Most people are not in Safety Harbor to have stores downtown. They are there to live in a nice place, and that should be the commission’s priority.
Well another business has closed on Main Street! Why can’t our City Leaders make decisions to support the merchants instead of working so hard to make it difficult for them to survive and thrive. Maybe if these leaders showed their face and frequented the businesses in the downtown district they would get more of an understanding on how the decisions they make negatively impact our entire community. I encourage citizens to please attend the Commission Meetings and you will see with your very own eyes some of the nonsense that goes on in relation to the decision-making for our community. Commission meeting dates are on the City of Safety Harbor website.
So as I watch and read about what other communities are doing with there downtown areas it saddens me that our “leaders” are so far from being LEADERS it’s not even fair! Look at all the vacant storefronts and how 1970’s Main Street looks. I understand about wanting to keep “quaintness” but explain what is quaint about empty???? So sad!!!
This city commission needs to be voted out. They are going out of their way to make things tough for downtown merchants. Tell you what, next election time, I will work for whoever is running against these commissioners and this mayor. He has a problem with using taxpayer money for businesses? Does he realize that the businesses are paying taxes, too?? We need some people who appreciate the people who take the chance with their own money and hard work to build a business in downtown and then have to fight with these nit picking, nay saying commissioners and mayor.
Wow once again Mayor Steingold is against anything that would help downtown merchants!! Why wasn’t this on his re-election banter?? Perhaps the CRA funds can purchase a different blazer for him…tired of seeing the same one every two weeks…lol
Why does Andy have an issue with advertising local businesses on city public right-of-ways? Don’t the city commissionners want this city to thrive and survive? Local business is the life blood of any city. Doesn’t anyone in a power position in this town have a forward thinking bone in their body? Wait, I take that back, Carlos seems to be open to new ways of doing things and seeing the bigger picture.
Also, do they really think there will be some mad scramble over who gets to advertise? Personally, I can’t really imagine why a business from another city would even want to. But, even if we opened it up to 70% local and 30% non, I have a feeling that 30% wouldn’t even show up or make it a problem, which would leave it to locals to fill the spots. And, worst-case-scenario, if the ads DID fill up with non local businesses, it would still pay for the up-keep, and the maps and local business listings would still be there. This seems like a win/win situation, to me.
I believe the concern is using CRA and/or CRD funds to benefit businesses that are not a part of the area. Perhaps charging outside business more to advertise would be a discussion worth having. But Mr. Zimmet would have to weigh in on the legality of that.
This comment is so unfair. Maybe you don’t belong here.
That was not very nice saying someone does not belong here. I understand her frustration. There are so many beautiful trees in our city but the majority are not taken care of properly. It is expensive but very important to take care of your trees – all plants/landscaping for that matter. Take it from us who had to remove more trees than what we thought because they were diseased beyond saving. PS – we did get permits!
Sounds like YOU are a mean person and maybe YOU don’t belong here..
The City Commission is more than useless, in fact it is completely harmful to the whole city. It isn’t bad enough that they totally violate everyone’s rights with the whole tree situation (with power being out repeatedly every single little storm because of trees and limbs down), now they want to completely drive all small business and tourism out of the city as a whole. Be careful who you vote into power Safety Harbor residents, because they can apparently ruin an entire town in just one short year!! I honestly can’t wait to get out of this town and area as a whole.
I agree. We need s new commission They’ve violated our homeowner’s rights with trees because the spa’s removal of so many trees got past them. People can’t afford all the new regs.
Power out? Well then, let’s just remove all the trees.
Tonight I was walking down Marshall St. I imagined what it would look like if just 20% of the propert owners cut their trees.
And then I realized my right weren’t being “totally violated.”