After months of debate: Marco City Council votes down right-of-way signage ordinance

An open house temporary sign is seen at the intersection of N. Barfield Dr. and San Marco Rd. on Feb. 4, 2020.

Following months of research, reports and meetings, Marco Island City Council voted down an ordinance which would allow temporary signs in the public right-of-ways in all zoning districts.

It would have also allowed the city to remove signs not in compliance with regulations.

In residential districts, signs are currently allowed in the public right-of-way between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. The ordinance would have extended these rules to commercial districts.

The lack of sign regulation for commercial districts means Code Enforcement unable to remove signs in the right-of-way, according to a staff report from last year.

"Currently, signs are only regulated in the right-of ways abutting residential zoning districts and are silent in commercial zoning districts," as stated in the report.

Marco Island City Councilor Howard Reed speaks during a council meeting March 2, 2020.

Councilor Howard Reed said City Council is making things worst every time it reevaluates this ordinance. "Every time we go over it [...] we make it worst, not better," he said at a council meeting on March 16.

Reed said he would not like to see political signs he does not approve on the swale in front of his home. 

"I realize that I don't own that swale even though I have to mow it, maintain it and water it [...] now I don't have the right to tell somebody they can't put a sign out there for a cause or a candidate that I am diametrically opposed to," he said. "This is insane."

Councilor Larry Honig said it can already happen under the current ordinance.

"A councilor can put signs in Howard Reed's swale, that can happen under the current sign ordinance," Honig said.

Councilor Sam Young said he supported a ban of virtually all signs except for realtor and open house signs.

"This is stupid," he said. 

Vice-chair Jared Grifoni speaks during a Marco Island City Council meeting on March 16, 2020.

Jared Grifoni, City Council vice-chair, said prohibiting all signs in swales will affect groups like charities, churches and environmental groups. He showed photos of these types of signs on swales throughout Marco Island.

Grifoni said the city could reduce clutter in swales by setting strict time limits applied equally across the island and to allow Code Enforcement to remove and discard signs violating the code.

Erik Brechnitz, City Council chairperson, said he did not want signs in right-of-ways.

"We have here an ordinance that will not be enforced," he said. "The only smart way to do it is not to do it at all."

City Council voted 4-3 against the proposed ordinance. Councilors Charlette Roman, Reed, Young and Brechnitz voted against it and Victor Rios, Honig and Grifoni voted in favor.

More:Marco Island City Council to consider ordinance allowing temporary signs in all right-of-ways

From 2019:Marco Island City Council overruled planning board regarding sign rules, Goldstein says

On Oct. 4, the planning board postponed the approval of an earlier version of this ordinance after finding inconsistencies, according to board members. 

On Oct. 25, City Council passed a motion 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. Councilors Roman and Howard Reed voted against the motion, which passed 5-2.

On Nov. 1, the chairperson of the planning board, Ron Goldstein, said 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 the 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."

Omar Rodríguez Ortiz is a community reporter for Naples Daily News and Marco Eagle. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram as @Omar_fromPR, and on Facebook. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.