St. Petersburg Erects “Closed for Business Sign” with New Proposal; Double Standard for City Signs; Contact City to tell them “no”.

There must be an animosity for successful business among government officials and members of St. Petersburg City Council.  Perhaps some special interests want to impose their own “aesthetic” sense on “the great unwashed”.  Maybe the city doesn’t want businesses to open, be successful, create jobs and offer consumers the lowest prices and quality products.  That is the only way to explain the nonsensical sign law proposals being offered to St. Petersburg City Council by City Staff.  The worst part is that the city – as always- protects itself from the laws.  It seems trumped up “safety” and “aesthetic” issues don’t apply to the people who make the rules.  As they continue their assault on businesses and consumers the city seeks to increase the regulatory limits by 5000%!


Tell City Council:  No anti-business Sign ordinances.  6 second dwell times are fine. Images are fine. Scrolling text is fine.  Handheld sign spinners are fine. Minimal regulations are okay for common sense issues like superbright signs, signs in neighborhoods and spinning in the streeet, but that is all. Stop trampling on the first amendment and the Florida Constituion! Go to the City Council Workshop 5/3/12 at 175 5th St. N. in St. Pete at end of City Council meeting on 5/3 or email Council and Mayor atcouncil@stpete.org and Mayor@stpete.org.

No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”  Florida Constitution.

This sign in St. Petersburg was on display on the exit street of I-I75 going to the Tropicana Field.  Why is it safe for the city to change messages every two seconds but not safe for businesses to change messages every 6  seconds?

This sign over I-275 in St. Petersburg changes message every 3 seconds. If this is not safe, as proposed by the city, why does the City not ask for it to be changed? 



The most egregious change involves a draconian limit on the use of “electronic message centers”.  These are the electronic signs that can display text, graphics and information that consumers find useful and business use to grow and be successful.  Outside of St. Petersburg they display high-definition, colorful images like grapefruit slices, and once displayed cute puppies at a vet’s office in town till banned by the shortsighted city leaders.  These signs display sales on products and new services – making life easier for consumers.   Right now the city allows only text and no images.  The city would allow graphics and images but there is a catch – they must stay up for five minutes.  That is a 5000% increase in regulated time which currently allows a change every six seconds. Documents obtained by the Sun Beam Times from Dave Goodwin, the Director of Planning and Economic Development,  show the ordinance will also require all signs to conform to much more limited sign sizes if any building is renovated for more than 50% of its value.  Right now, some people consider buying and redeveloping a building based on the larger more liberal signs allowed in the past that are grandfathered in.  Do we REALLY want sign ordinances that would discourage development and remodeling of buildings when our contractors are hurting so bad?

In addition the ordinances state that the messages can’t complete a sentence or answer a question started on the previous sign.  There can be no scrolling text.  They shall be no brighter than “0.2 foot candles”. One envisions the city enforcers out with light meters and candlesticks to figure this one out….a significant waste of money and distraction from more important issues – like crime! It seems the city has also forgotten the first amendment and the Florida constitutional protection on free speech.   Adjacent towns allow images, scrolling text, shorter dwell times at their businesses. Should those businesses have a competitive advantage over those located in St. Petersburg?  Of course not!  

The ordinance would also limit hand held signs to one per business and prevent any movement of that sign.  People must stand like a statue and hold the sign.  They claim that this is constitutional, but would certainly be difficult to defend in court.   This is based on the staff’s “belief” that the signs are a safety hazard (no data, just “belief” ) and are “aesthetically out of keeping” with the city’s sign ordinances.  Huh? The city actually cites court cases that state it is the city’s positive duty to demonstrate that there limits on commercial speech are justified based on data, careful analysis  and “PROOF”.  None is offered, only the “belief” of the staff.

Mr. Goodwin advises that there are two reasons for the proposed five minute requirement: Safety and “aesthetics”.  The safety concern makes no sense since numerous studies have failed to show any negative impact on safety from such signs, according to testimony offered by many in a digital billboard hearing at City Council last August. More importantly, if safety is an issue, then why do the city and the Department of transportation allow signs that change faster on interstates and exit ramps?  Do the safety concerns only happen on less travelled streets from private signs?  Of course not!  The safety argument is nonsense and holds no water. It is a distraction and an excuse to justify bad regulations that kill business. The videos above were taken above of signs in the City of St. Petersburg with two and three second dwell times. 

The real reason for these ordinances is that a small groups of special interests, represented by leaders of the Council on Neighborhood Association (CONA) and Historic “preservationists” want the city to have a certain “look” (CONA is also trying to advocate for higher property taxes…go figure).  A “look” THEY can approve of. They wax dramatic about Vegas strip style signage on Fourth street and in neighborhoods, which is of course vast hyperbole. They say things like “just think what the street would look like of there were many signs with changing text every six seconds”.  Well, who gave a small segment of our city the right to dictate to residents, businesses and taxpayers what the city is “allowed” to look like. A more accurate description would be a vibrant business enviromment that creates prosperity and makes life easier for consumers. The City is in a long economic recession. Jobs are scares. Tax revenues are down.  People are scraping by and businesses are struggling. It would  add insult to injury to further damage our economy and our city with these onerous sign ordinance proposals.

If you want to change this, there is still time.  Contact the city Council at COUNCIL@STPETE.ORG and the Mayor


This sign at CVS pharmacy on MLK at Gateway changes every 6 seconds. Consumers can learn of low prices and easy to get sports physicals. There is no mention of increased accidents at this site in the report supporting a 5 minute dwell time with the proposed new ordinances. 

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One Reply:

  1. art seeker

    You wrote: “…Well, who gave a small segment of our city the right to dictate to residents, businesses and taxpayers what the city is “allowed” to look like…” My answer: Corrupt politicians did.

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