CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla.- Dozens of business owners gathered Tuesday in Murdock to give the Charlotte County Commissioners a piece of their mind. More than two dozen people took turns addressing the commission about what they called antiquated laws regarding what kind of signs and flags businesses can use outside their establishments.
Citizens were angry because they are being cited by the county for using temporary signs, banners and flags to promote their businesses. The most popular temporary sign is known as a flutter flag, which resembles the shape of a giant feather. The public hearing was called for by Commissioner Robert Skidmore after residents brought it to his attention that they were being cited for displaying the banners. "These flags didn't exist in 1982 when the ordinance was written and they are deemed illegal today because of that," Skidmore said.
Business owners also asked the commission to revisit rules that restrict when they can hang a banner outside their business. Currently the county law allows each business to draw a 30 day permit two times a year to display such banners. "Two permits per year up to 30 day-- that's 60 days per 365 days, so the other 305 days I'm not allowed to have anything," said Dustin Bloom who owns an auto detailing business in Port Charlotte. He says that county code enforcement officials threatened to cite him for hanging a banner in front of his building advertising his business.
Ryan Blumberg, who owns two businesses in Englewood, says that because of the poorly written laws, code enforcement threatened to fine him for a sign that he says was perfectly legal. "Now they're rewriting the codes as they go and code enforcement sometimes don't even know what they are enforcing", Blumberg said. Skidmore says that the input from the business owners helped Commissioners see the writing on the wall. "Who the hell are we to tell small business owners or residential owners what to do on their property?" Skidmore said.
Commissioners would not issue a moratorium on citations for now but they did say that they will take the suggestions they received to staff, so that the laws can be rewritten to be more business friendly.