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Petition against sign ordinance under way

By Staff | Sep 26, 2013

Numerous business people are expected to turn out Monday to voice opposition to a controversial new sign ordinance proposal first discussed two weeks ago.

Among the Cape Coral City Council meeting attendees will be Shea Hambling, owner of Creative Computer Solutions, who started a petition a few days ago, and who has already gotten more than 70 signatures against from business owners.

Hambling said that he, and the rest of the business community, will be negatively impacted by the ordinance, since it will more strictly enforce many of the laws on the books now while also adding new restrictions.

“They had allowed for A-frame signs and other banners that they made exceptions for. And that’s important with the way the economy is,” Hambling said. “If this passes, it will completely ban them and make it so that window signs only cover 30 percent.”

Hambling said window signage serves a dual purpose, one of which the city council never thought about when proposing it.

“A lot of people use the signs as a way to save energy, to block the sun to keep it cooler and save electricity,” Hambling said. “I use them to block the sun. They’re trying to make it look nice but now is not the right time for this.”

The ordinance’s sponsor, Councilmember Marty McClain, said he believes more people support the measure than oppose it.

“Unfortunately the petition is one-sided, ” McClain said Thursday. “Lots of people oppose this stance; it needs to be global. A lot of the ordinance itself is citizen driven and they do not like advertising in this manner.”

The ordinance was is on the agenda as a voting item Monday.

The criticism came out of the gate at its introduction with another businessperson saying window coverage also serves as a security device so prospective thieves can’t look in and decide they want to steal something.

Hambling said the ordinance, if approved, likely won’t force many businesses to shutter, but it could impact things enough to where they will have to lay off some workers.

“If your business plan is built on having a sign out, they probably don’t have a good business model,” Hambling said. “I don’t think it will kill businesses, but it will have an impact on jobs.”

Hambling said his sign has been a key cog to building his customer base.

“Of the last 700 customers we’ve had, 500 were drive-bys; that’s somebody’s job,” Hambling said.

If approved, sign-wavers would no longer be allowed on public rights-of-way, including sidewalks, only on the businesses property.

A-frame signs would be prohibited, as they have always been, and “feather banners” would be limited to one per business to be displayed only for a three-week interval four times a year.

Hambling said he is going to bring city business owners en force to city hall to air their complaints.

Mike Quaintance, president of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce, said he agrees that some issues need to be addressed.

“There are things that council needs to look at regarding A-frames and look at solutions regarding window signage,” Quaintance said. “Hopefully, they will see the relationship between business and community and the importance to not stifle the mediums people use to promote their business.”

The Chamber has not taken an official stance on the matter.

According to a chamber survey, though, a majority of businesses say the measure would have a negative impact and 71 percent believe council should reject it. Seventy-three point five percent do not support the provision that would eliminate A-frame signs; 51.2 percent do not support the “feather banners” restrictions; 70.2 percent do not support the provision to limit window signage coverage to 30 percent unless you use some of your outside sign allocation and get a special permit. Most, 61.9 percent, do support restrictions on sign wavers.

City Council meets at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall on Cultural Park Boulevard.