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Updated: 12/26/2013 09:42:06AM

City adopts amendments to sign ordinance

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Ken Fields isn’t going to be the sign Grinch of Lake Wales.

The Lake Wales City Commission adopted amendments to its sign ordinance by a 4-1 vote during the Dec. 17 meeting. Commissioner Mike Carter voted against it.

Fields, the city manager, said nothing will happen until after the holidays as far as enforcing it. He added that he will schedule a meeting with code enforcement.

“We want compliance not punishment,” Fields said. “We will give them a chance to come in to compliance.”

Fields said the city needs to be consistent but also have common sense. An example of applying common sense, he said, is the Little League registration signs that have showed up recently that are just temporary.

Carter made a motion to have the staff put together an implentation plan that could be given to businesses and explained the revised ordinance. The motion died for lack of a second.

Carter said he favored the ordinance but with the provision that the implementation plan be prepared.

Among other things the amendments include expanding the areas where internally lit and electronic signs are permitted and allowing small neon signs in business display windows.

The Planning and Zoning Board recommended the amendments, based on series of public hearings held over the last several months at the request of the commission. Following the adoption of major changes in the sign code in June of this year, the commission directed the Planning Board to determine what additional amendments are needed to strike “a balance between community appearance standards and business signage needs.”

On July 23, a public meeting was held after 470 surveys were sent to local businesses. The city received 19 responses and 8 people attended the meeting. A final public hearing was held on Oct. 22 for which staff sent notification to 630 business tax receipt holders. Three members of the business community attended.

In response to public comments, allowances on three types of signs were re-evaluated: internally lit signs, including box type signs and channel letters; electronic signs, including computerized, digital signs and A-Frame sidewalk signs.

The areas where internally lit signs will be allowed in addition to along US 27 and commercial areas along SR 60 are:

The recommended expansion areas are:

• Along Central Avenue from SR 60 to Scenic Highway

• Along First Street from SR 60 to Wiltshire Avenue

• Scenic Highway except the ban should be kept between Polk Avenue and Wiltshire Avenue

• SR 60 north side between Marietta Street and 13th Street (PF-Professional District)

• SR 60 west of US 27 – Industrial districts

• Mountain Lake Cutoff Road – LCI-Limited Commercial-Industrial and I-2 Industrial Infill Districts.

• C-4 Neighborhood Commercial Districts (southwest corner of Burns and Buck Moore)

The ordinance allows on-animated neon signs not exceeding 2 square feet in size in display windows of businesses regardless of zoning district.

It also allows electronic signs along the north side of Mountain Lake Cutoff Road.

The Planning Board debated at some length on issues related to A-Frame sidewalk signs. It recommended that eventually A-frame signs be eliminated in favor of a more effective method of addressing downtown signage needs, such as way-finding signs in the public areas and more effective use of wall, canopy, awning, and projecting signs. Way-finding signs are group signs pointing out various businesses in the vicinity of the sign.

In addition to the city sending out notices about the changes, Commissioner Betty Wojcik said the Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce sent out notices.

Margaret Swanson, the city’s planning director, said the department has used its entire postage budget for the year in trying to get input and keep businesses informed about the process.

In other business, the commission recognized Vincent Crawford, the city’s superintendent for parks and recreation. Crawford has become a certified playground inspector through the National Recreation and Park Association.

The city has ordered new playground equipment for several parks that is expected to be installed early next year.

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