by sign enforcement
The Venice Code Enforcement Board aired its collective frustration about continuing violations of the city’s sign code at a recent meeting.
Venice City Council ordered a review of the entire sign ordinance after last year’s tiff over a call-in sign in front of a residence where church gatherings are held. In that case the code board dropped all fines and actions and requested council direction.
Council agreed the ordinance needed updating and directed staff to bring forth revisions.
On Tuesday, council learned the revisions it directed to be complete by end of this month weren’t on track to meet that goal.
“Right now there is a lot of confusion,” Mayor John Holic told staff. “We really need to get something done on this ordinance.”
Holic sat in on last week’s code board meeting and said he was “dumbfounded” when he learned a previous zoning and planning director allegedly told code enforcement officers to selectively enforce a prohibition on cafe signs along the city’s right of way, but only on Venice Avenue, according to Holic.
“That’s why the sandwich boards are there,” he said. “Now, you cross over Venice Avenue and go down Tamiami Trail and they are enforcing it. That kind of blew my mind.”
City Attorney Bob Anderson said that unless council authorized a waiver of enforcement of that portion of the sign code, staff didn’t have the authority to do it.
The issue came up when the code board was asked to consider fines against the owner of Pineapples restaurant on Tamiami Trail at East Venice Avenue.
Pineapples owner Tom Carney said he took the sandwich board signs down.
When he asked the zoning and planning department why they had to be removed, he said he was told, “because someone complained.”
Carney decided to test that line of reasoning by filing complaints about other signs.
“The problem I have is everybody has signs out,” he said. “I went around and took pictures of signs and sandwich boards that I did not believe to be permanent.
“I took a picture of 40 signs all over … took them down to the zoning office and complained about them. And not one sign was changed.
“So I put my sign up again. That’s when I got my notice to appear.
“Everyone can have a sign, and I can’t?
“I don’t want anyone to have to take their signs down. I knew the planning department wouldn’t tell them to take their signs down. I did it because I wanted to make a point.”
Carney missed the code board ruling last week, at which he was fined $900 for two instances of violating the city’s sign ordinance.
“Why pick on me … because someone complained?,” he said. “But when I complain, they don’t take the other signs down? It’s not fair. I just want the fines to go away.”
“Everybody has signs up and down (U.S.) 41. I have to compete with that. When all my neighboring people can have all the signs they want and I can’t … it’s not even American.”
The signs are still in place.