Florida Keys News
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Marathon to address sign complaints

MARATHON -- Recent criticism about the inconsistent enforcement of the city's sign ordinance has gotten the attention of City Council members.

"It's time to workshop it," said Councilman Chris Bull, who said he has spoken with city staff and community members and the sentiments from each are much the same.

"There's been hesitancy among staff as to how to enforce [the ordinance]," he said during last week's council meeting, before recommending that input be solicited from staff and the public. Once all of the recommendations have been considered, Bull suggested that the council direct staff to draft a revision to the ordinance and bring it back for a vote.

The council's conversation was spurred, in part, by numerous complaints from the community. According to the city's Code Compliance Department, complaints abound about businesses with signs that don't meet the requirements of the ordinance as well as businesses with excessive signage.

Councilman Dick Ramsay said he wants more details about the complaints and requested a weekly email of those filing complaints and the basis for their dissatisfaction. The email will be sent to all council members.

"Let's work with the community to get people up to code as painlessly as possible," said Mayor Mike Cinque, who said he suspects the majority of complaints are with regard to portable signs.

In other action, City Manager Roger Hernstadt presented the council with a request to implement a $200,000 lighting pilot project to "change the look and feel of our Main Street" by changing lighting structures.

In addition to new, decorative lighting along U.S.1, the project will analyze the number of street lights needed on the corridor and determine the best placement.

Council and staff expressed a desire to provide Marathon with more of a "Main Street" appearance, suggesting that a more homey look would encourage travelers to spend more time and money here.

"It's better for our businesses, our residents and our tax base," said Councilwoman Ginger Snead.

The council voted unanimously to make an initial payment of $20,000 to the Energy Systems Group to get the project moving. ESG will work to get through the first phase of securing a permit from the Florida Department of Transportation. If that is unsuccessful, the project ends and no additional funds will change hands.

In other beautification efforts, the city hired a contractor to spruce up the highway medians with landscaping, which until it matures will require significant maintenance to keep it properly watered and weeded. The council discussed the possibility of enlisting volunteers in that effort as a way to reduce spending.

Public Works Manager Carlos Solis cautioned the council about keeping volunteers safe. Anyone working in the medians would be at risk, he said.

The council acknowledged there would be safety issues to consider but hopes to encourage volunteers to "Adopt A Median," in the same way residents can "Adopt A Highway" to keep clean.

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