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Council agrees to look into allowing digital signs

By Staff | Oct 8, 2013

It was an unusual meeting for the city council Monday at City Hall. With Mayor John Sullivan and Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz at the bond validation hearing across the river, mayor pro-tem Rana Erbrick was put in charge of the meeting and Parks and Rec Director Steve Pohlman sat in City Manager John Szerlag’s chair.

But there was more discussion than anything else, with the big item brought up by former mayor John Mazurkewicz, who sold the city on the idea of putting two digital message centers on two of the busiest areas in the city, the intersection of Del Prado and Veterans and on Cape Coral Parkway just over the Cape Coral Bridge.

The signs would essentially be donated by Lamar as a way to provide the city better means to communicate with people on major roadways.

The boards would warn people regarding weather and “Amber Alerts”, as well as promote area attractions such as SunSplash and FGCU.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail, though, expressed the downside, the fear that such “message boards” would open a Pandora’s Box toward having billboards all over the city.

“I have no problem with the city doing research on this and whether we go to a single source or send it through the RFP process,” McGrail said. “The benefits for storm preparedness is obvious, and clearly nobody wants to hang a banner over the overpass any longer.”

Another concern was that the board would advertise things such as tattoo parlors and massage parlors when not allocated for city business and other public service announcements.

Lamar representative Ed Bolger put them at ease.

“We have a model that prohibits certain things. No tattoo parlors or any adult-oriented ads,” Bolger said.

The city unanimously passed a motion 8-0 to further look into the idea. The vote was taken late in the meeting, when those at the bond hearing had returned.

In other business, Szerlag and acting director of the Department of Community Development Paul Dickson addressed the 65 recommendations of the Zucker report where financial resources would be needed.

The recommendations were made to help make the city’s planning and zoning process fast, fair and predictable.

One of the ideas addressed was for most of the city’s permitting process to be done online, which could save the city enormous amounts of cash while living up to its objective.

Also, the city denied a petition from Denis Catalano to install a street light at the intersection of Jacaranda Parkway West and Old Burnt Store Road because it was a school bus stop.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail, who has advocated lights at bus stops, said each street light costs about $600, and with about 50 of these needing to be installed and no money currently earmarked for them, there was no chance.

Council also approved by 6-0 votes the reversal of the DCD denying the request of a model home being utilized as a single-family home in a Marketplace-Residential district.