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Gainesville fights signs of clutter
City officials want to reassert outdoor signage code enforcement
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First impressions matter.

And the last thing Gainesville officials want visitors humming as they enter the city is "signs, signs, everywhere a sign."

At least, that's the thinking behind the city of Gainesville's new effort to reassert codes on outdoor signs in city limits.

Gainesville officials say that it's becoming too common for local businesses to leave out temporary outdoor signs longer than permitted or in unauthorized places.

"It gives the city somewhat of a cluttered look," said Mayor Pro-Tem George Wangemann. "We're trying to make the city look a little more presentable."

Matt Tate, Gainesville's planning manager, said outdoor signs such as banners, inflatable figures, flags and wind-blown devices are allowed in the city on a temporary basis if they're associated with an outdoor event. But Tate said some businesses are keeping their signs past the allowed 60 days, and placing signs in public rights-of-way.

The signs in some corridors are creating "visual chaos" that is both unpleasant to look at and a potential safety issue, he told The Times on Monday.

After a report by the city's Planning Division at the Gainesville City Council retreat on Friday, the council directed staff to step up efforts to clean up the corridors.

In recent years, the city had relaxed enforcement on such codes as the economy waned, Tate said. Even with the new effort, officials say they'll try to address concerns without browbeating business owners.

"We're all about economic growth," Tate said. "We also want to create an aesthetically better looking corridor.

Rather than immediately slapping out fines, Wangemann said the city will try to reach out to business owners first to educate them about existing policies.

Tate said city staff will work on handouts with the "do's and don'ts" of signs without the convoluted language in city codes.

The rules for temporary commercial signs work differently than political signs, which are allowed to stay outside longer and don't require a permit, Tate said. Those signs still have size restrictions and can't be placed on public right-of-ways.

 

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