Marco Island City Council overruled planning board regarding sign rules, Goldstein says

Ron Goldstein, chairperson of Marco Island's Planning Board, said in an Oct. 4 meeting that the original ordinance proposed by city staff would allow owners to double the amount of signs they can put in front of their properties.

The chairperson of Marco Island's Planning Board, Ron Goldstein, said on Friday that City Council overruled the board when it moved to allow signs in all rights-of-way.

"The Planning Board did not want signs in the right-of-way [...] so now we are being asked to extend the signs in the right-of-way from residential properties to commercial," Goldstein said during a board meeting.

"I don't think the public has taken in the fact that City Council overruled what the Planning Board recommended to them," Goldstein said. "Hopefully they will over the next two months."

Council passed a motion in October instructing staff to propose a code amendment that would regulate temporary signs in the right-of-way of commercial districts just like the city does in residential ones, the Eagle reported.

More:Marco Island City Council may allow signs in all rights-of-way

In residential districts, these signs may be placed in the public right-of-way only between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to the Code of Ordinances.

The lack of sign regulation for commercial districts makes Code Enforcement unable to remove signs in the right-of-way, according to a Planning Board staff report.

During the discussion, councilors Victor Rios, Sam Young and Howard Reed considered prohibiting most signs in the right-of-way with some exceptions like realtor signs but city attorney Alan L. Gabriel said all signs have to be treated equally.

 "The Supreme Court said simply that all signs must be treated equally," Gabriel said. "It makes no difference what the content is."

A temporary sign announcing an art show was located at the intersection of San Marco Rd. and N. Barfield Dr. in Marco Island on Oct. 3. More than three weeks after the event, the sign was still there, the Eagle observed.

Councilor Jared Grifoni said cities only have two options to regulate signs in the right-of-way: banning or allowing them. 

"The U.S. Supreme Court has given cities two options when it comes to speech in the form of signage in the public right-of-way: a total and complete ban regardless of content (which means banning signs about charity events, political speech, or civic organizations), or we allow it," Grifoni wrote. 

"If we allow it we also have the right to set time limits on signs so they can be removed by Code Enforcement to prevent clutter," Grifoni wrote. "Allowing signs with a strict time limit is the most reasonable course of action."

Councilor Larry Honig said he appreciates the work done by the city's boards.

"I admire, respect, and appreciate the heavy lifting done by our volunteer boards," Honig wrote. "The political risk is that City Council may reach different conclusions, as happened to the sign ordinance we revised and passed last year."

City Council Chairperson Erik Brechnitz wrote he understands the frustration of being overruled by council because he was previously Planning Board's chairperson for two years.

"However, I think the planning board would’ve reached a different conclusion if they had had the same information the City Council received," Brechnitz wrote. "The heart of the matter is if you ban signage in the rights of way you eliminate the ability of realtors to post open house signs."

"We have been told in the past that there was a carve out for realtors, but at the City Council meeting the city attorney informed us no such state or federal exemption existed." 

Grifoni wrote it's also about freedom of speech.

"Total bans are authoritarian, waste the taxpayers' money, and are always destined for failure," Grifoni wrote. 

"While I take all viewpoints into account on important issues facing our city, ultimately I will always side with the Constitution and a broad protection of our citizens individual rights."

In case you missed it:Planning Board postpones new sign regulation for commercial zones in Marco Island