Palm Coast government bans almost all temporary signs from skewering rights of way, medians, utility posts and the like. But periodically, and especially, either when local realtors again press the issue–they tend to benefit most from signs–or the Palm Coast City Council has new members, the push to loosen the sign rules reemerges.
It did so again Tuesday, with newly-elected Council member Ed Danko proposing a reconsideration of the sign ordinance and Mayor Milissa Holland pushing back.
“We have revisited this open house policy since the city was incorporated in 1999,” Holland said.
Realtors want to plant open house signs to push sales. Some elected officials want to help them in the name of supporting local business. But it comes down to this: if Palm Coast (or any local government) were to allow realtors’ open house signs, it would have to allow signs from anyone else–any company, any private concern, any religious, political or extremist organization. Palm Coast hasn’t wanted to risk that snake pit, both because it could turn rights of way into jungles of clutter and because if it were to act against signs perceived to be inappropriate, it could invite a lawsuit. Banning them all takes care of both issues. (See the city’s complete sign ordinance here.)
“I am not in favor of even going down this path,” Holland said categorically, recalling how Jacksonville came close to doing so until case law changed and stopped the city from moving ahead with a more permissive ordinance.
Bill Reischmann, the city attorney, reminded the council of the Supreme Court decision six years ago that put the matter to rest. Reischmann had given the council a similar briefing on the Reed v. Town Gilbert decision in July 2015, though every member of that council has long been gone.
“If we were to adopt specific rules that apply just to realty type, or open house for for sale signs, that would be in violation of the Gilbert case,” Reischmann said. “It it is confusing because that decision that came out that I’m referring to was a change, it was a substantial change in the state of the law in the United States of America. Because before that, the standard operating procedure for regulation of temporary signs is, you could make the distinction, based upon practical and real world differences between different temporary signs. But we’re not allowed to do that anymore. And when I say ‘we,’ I don’t mean just the city of Palm Coast. I mean any local government. We can regulate the size of the signs. We can regulate how long they’re out there. We can regulate where they’re located. We can do this based on fundamental aesthetics and other public safety and legitimate public concerns. But we can’t regulate them based on content.”
Other local governments have gone the other way, as in Clay County, allowing all signs. Holland recalled speaking with a former legislator from there. “Palm Coast has done it right, I would move here from Clay County,” the legislator told her. She quoted him: “‘I drive out of my beautiful neighborhood, and I drive by a convenience store and they have smoke shops that’–I mean, they have so many signs he said it takes away from the whole character of a neighborhood. ‘How did you guys do this?’ and I said, you know, we do for one we do for all, we cannot regulate content, so I’m just not interested in going down this path, due to the ruling.”
Danko wasn’t convinced. “I understand your point, Madam Mayor,” he said. “But we’re a changing community. And I think we need to visit this whole signage issue. And assume it includes work vehicles too.”
Holland stopped him at mention of signage on commercial vehicles, another very sensitive issue in the city that has periodically drawn intense criticism from labor groups and small businesses: the city forbids work vans with commercial signage to be parked for extended periods in residential driveways. The Gilbert decision does not address that issue directly, though its same principle applies: a government could not allow some type of verbiage on vehicles but not others, so the city bans them all (vans may be parked in driveways overnight as long as they’re covered by a tarp.)
The council subsequently discussed the matter of work vans separately, and more permissively. (See the details: “In a ‘Big Shift,’ Palm Coast Will Survey Residents On Relaxing Commercial Vehicle-Ban in Driveways.”)
But Danko wants to reconsider it all. “I think we probably need to have a broader discussion that includes being part of being business friendly, and we need to discuss the way we need to change things or not,” Danko said. “All the signages things, it’s not just the real estate agents. It would be on open house signs, it would be anything I guess. We’d open up that Pandora’s box is what you’re saying. But I do think we need to have that discussion, because we do have people with work vehicles, businesses and stuff, and that’s signage, too.”
Reischmann cautioned against mixing signage issues with parking regulations. Signs on vehicles are regulated by the parking ordinance. “We have a sign code. And we have parking regulations,” Reischmann said. “Those are two different sets of policy decisions that this or a prior Council has adopted, and it is of course up to this council whether they wish to revisit.” If the city were to revisit the commercial vehicle-signage issue, the attorney said, “the issue then would be, what type of leeway and what would be the impact of the sign regulations on our ability to categorize vehicles as business versus personal.” But reconsidering the parking ordinance would not force revisiting the signage ordinance, he said.
And Danko’s push may yet be one more effort in vain: he is almost certain to have one other vote to change the commercial-vehicle sign ordinance–that of Victor Barbosa, the council member who only recently came close to being dragged before the city’s code enforcement board over violations of that exact ordinance. Barbosa has spoken publicly, on his Facebook page, about wanting to repeal the restriction, though he was curiously silent during the discussion on signs Tuesday. If Barbosa were to join Danko on the matter, his and Danko’s would appear to be the only two votes for reconsideration.
Holland’s position is clear. Council member Eddie Branquinho, who has been styling his policy approaches on those of former Mayor Jon Netts–who was the city’s neat freak–said “basically, it’s case law.” Case law that he says hurts his own pocketbook: Branquinho’s wife is a Realtor. “Some of her signs that were illegally placed, they’re gone,” he said. “She’s paying for it, and when she’s paying for it, I’m paying for it. Meanwhile, hey, that’s the law, I’m fine with it.”
And Council member Nick Klufas made his position clear.
“Part of the allure and the beauty of Palm Coast is the minimal signage that we allow,” Klufas said. “Although previous discussions have brought up the points of it being business unfriendly, in my personal experience, it’s honestly very rare that a business has reached out to me, or an individual, and said that this lack of signage is preventing them from being able to conduct their businesses appropriately. The real estate open house signs, I understand is an issue, but every time that I’ve been approached by, for instance, the HBA,” the Home Builders Association, “about trying to find a middle ground, I always fall back to the same type of conversation which we just had where, if you have to read the content of the site to make a decision, whether or not it’ll be allowed in the community–you can’t do that. And I think for the greater good, it falls in my opinion into the school of thought where, if we don’t allow any of these signs, we avoid all of the issues that come along with that, and we also keep the beauty and allure of Palm Coast alive. A lot of the individuals I speak to, honestly, the 99.9 percent majority I speak to of people move here for that beauty and very, very, very rarely have I ever met anyone who’s willing to compromise that, since that was part of the deal when they moved into Palm Coast.”
The discussion did seem to modulate Danko’s approach. “I understand,” he said. “I’ve heard from neighbors that want to have garage sales, they’d like to be able to do the same thing. But you’re right, we can’t. Once we open the door, we can’t limit the content, we’re opening it up to everybody.”
“So I think we’ve made that very clear,” Holland said, presumably ending the latest push to chance the city’s sign ordinance–at least for the next few years.
The voice of reason says
The gun show signs have got to go. Never again. Last weekend they must have put up 100 on multiple roads. 3-4 weeks before, they did the same. Do not allow this travesty to happen again.
Number 8 says
While we are at it, lets ban all the voting signs for candidates during the elections. They make one hell of a mess!
Agreed and they seem to stay up way too long after the election.
Thank you council members, for not relaxing these ordinances, it was the right outcome on this. The internet & smartphone apps have a non-invasive ways to keep our neighborhoods free of clutter. Anyone looking to buy a home, can see these properties virtually and get their showing or open house thru Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia and any other online RE Listing search engine. Don’t relax commercial vehicle ordinances too. Thank you for looking out for the homeowners of Palm Coast & Flagler County.
Thank you, Milissa. Glad someone recognizes and understands one of the major reasons people move to Palm Coast.
Percy's mother says
What the hell.
The place already looks like a low-class hell hole with the influx of a load of low-class inhabitants who have nothing invested in this community. Soon it’ll be just another low-class neighborhood town everybody from the north was so eager to leave behind. That includes signs, business vehicles (and boats) parked on the driveway or at the side of the house or in the swales,
Let’s open everything up in a free for all. So what if its a Pandora’s Box? Loads of business vehicles with signage parked in driveways. Signs everywhere. 6, 7, 8 cars in a driveway and in the swales. Who cares? It’s all in the name of business. Just so Victor Barbosa can be happy and park his business truck in his driveway, the crybaby.
Port Orange used to be a very nice community. No longer. It also looks like hell. People in Port Orange are fleeing that city also.
Like so many others, I’m getting the hell outta here.
All because of Victor Barbosa and Ed Danko, two major right-wing Mullins devotees along with the McDonalds, Flagler Liberty Coalition, Alan Lowe, “Pastor” Jearlyn Dennie, Sharon Demers, et. al.
Mary Fusco says
Percy’s Mother, Normally I think you are right on spot however, I am from the North and do not consider myself a low class inhabitant. I left a much nicer area in fact. We had a large home on almost an acre of land ( a requirement to build) and did not live on top of our neighbors. We lived in that house for 25 years and decided to make the move because the cold, snow and ice were becoming a bit much. In fact the house sold in one day. We moved to FL 21 years ago and our home is kept up. I do believe that there are FL natives that are slobs also. Just saying.
As for the driveway, when we lived in NY we had up to 6 cars in our driveway, which was twice the size of the one I have now, because we had 4 kids and 2 adults driving. Talk about juggling cars!
As for the business trucks, everyone is screaming diversity but no one wants to go with the flow. I think realtors are pushing sales and not informing potential homeowners of all the rules and regulations. 21 years ago our realtor gave us a printout of what was allowed and what was not. That would have been the time to back out. Fortunately, I am okay with structure.
As for the politicians, I have nothing nice to say so I’ll say nothing. I always wonder how did politics work before the advent of social media and the look at me era. LOL.
Thank you Percy’s Mother I agree with every thing you said .Beauty is also not seeing commercial vehicle’s in driveway’s .Our so called leader’s have brought this city down low enough
Concerned Citizen says
What a snotty entitled comment.
As one of your low class inhabitants.
I came to Palm Coast in 2006. After having retired as a Lieutenant from an out of state Fire Rescue agency. Prior to that I had served 6 years with the Sheriffs Office. I also had a total of 16 years in the Airforce and Air National Guard. I chose Palm Coast because it aeemed welcoming at the time. And I liked the weather.
Now I am an active emergency services volunteer. Have been since 2009. And in the last two years went back to work as an armed security supervisor for a major company in the area. My wife is a fairly new Physicians Assistant after being a long time ARNP.
We moved out of Palm Coast because of issues with code enforcement and having to bring home a marked vehicle for work. In an industry that requires 24/7/365 response. But hey I’m a low class inhabitant. So what do I know?
A lot of these other commenters want to banish us from this petty little town. More power to ya. Moving out of Palm Coast proper was the best decision I have made in a long time.
But please stop referring to us as “trailer trash” Come down off your ivory tower. And get to know your neighbors.
Monte Cristo says
Ok, we may have voter her in but she shouldn’t be the one member of Council that says no and that’s ok.
This is the worst Council in many years.
No other Council member can suggest anything unless she says it’s ok.
Too much power too long.
Uh bye bye! No more votes for you!
I also think city council sucks but I agree with them on this issue.
Pat Leno says
No signs! No mention here of the damage they might cause during hurricanes. Flying weapons folks.
The signage at the front of Harbor Fright seem to be ignored by Code Enforcement, the city use to allow a single sign, now that place looks like the outfield at a ball park?
Want to see realtor signs; boats in yards; vehicles covering front yards and swales; houses on top of each other > visit Flagler Beach.
Was isn’t being said it that the realtors are lobbying the council to change the rules. Its easy to see which council-persons are getting greased by the real estate industry.
For once it would be nice if the politicians thought about the community instead of big business. It’s a quite residential city, lets keep it that way.
Concerned Citizen says
I noticed that the wording of this article says or by anyone.
Does that mean we will raise hell every election cycle now? And force the politicians to stop with the nasty piles of signs that clutter the roadways?
As many commenters have pointed out. With the internet and social media signage is starting to become archaic. And if our politicians expect us to follow the rules then they surely need to lead by example.
Say no to political signage !!
The Voice Of Reason says
Amen. Political signs do nothing to educate voters on candidates or issues. If signs cause your choice, stay home on election day. Outlaw political signs. Do your research. It’s obvious in this county, people vote foolishly.