Open House Sign Update

Palm Coast City Council Disappoints

Palm Coast, FL – May 27, 2008 – The Palm Coast City Council held a workshop today. The first item discussed was a draft resolution to deal with real estate "Open House" signage. I wrote about the details in last Friday’s commentary. Even though the workshop format does not allow public input, the impressive number of citizens attending today’s meeting signaled a keen interest. By today, I had ten reader comments to my original commentary, all in favor of allowing (even with limitations) directional signs to direct potential buyers from Palm Coast’s major streets through the section streets to the open house. I was very disappointed in today’s workshop results. It seems that too many council members are drinking City Manager Landon’s cool aid.
Here are some background facts:
  • Conforming open house signs are allowed on private property under the sign ordinance, but signs are prohibited (With the exception of City authorized "special events,") on any city right of way.
  • Last year, city code enforcement personnel were instructed to remove all signs from any city right of way. Since code enforcement works seven days per week, open house signs were fair game.
  • When Realtors® objected, Landon agreed to try a compromise approach which would not require a change in the code. The task of removing signs was transferred to another city department, one that worked only M-F. This tactic allowed the weekend open house signs to slip by as long as they were gone by Monday morning. This strategy was acceptable to Realtors®, but led to a proliferation of signs of all types as people figured out that weekend enforcement had stopped.
  • The draft resolution was designed to allow open house signs under the "special events" section of the sign ordinance. Everyone would have to pay $250 per open house address plus $30 per directional sign. I wrote that these fees were exorbitantly high but I think the use of the special events exception was innovative.
Both Landon and the city attorney cautioned council members that any restriction of freedom of speech would invite a lawsuit (a federal issue) that the city could not win. Favoring one group (Realtors®) above any other group would expose the city to a liability. But many towns and cities across the country DO allow open house signs. Are we operating under a different constitution?
I was surprised by some of the council member’s comments.
  • Mayor Netts, who let Jim Landon set the tone of the meeting, seemed to agree that the city should not open itself to potential liability. He noted that other businesses (like restaurants) were hurting as much as real estate and that they should just deal with it. John, if the housing sector were again healthy, the restaurants would have no problem.
  • Ms. DeStefano also followed Landon’s lead. She stated that one of the reasons she moved to Palm Coast several years ago was because of the lack of signs. Mary, the city has grown a lot since then. It does not look like it did several years ago. But then neither do any of us.
  • Council Moorman said little, but basically indicated that rules should be enforced, not surprising with his career military background.
  • Councilman Meeker got to the nub of the matter when he asked if city staff had investigated other jurisdictions to see how they handle the problem. It turns out that the real estate association had previously provided two ordinances, one from Tallahassee, for review, but neither had been analyzed prior to the draft resolution.
  • My most pleasant surprise came from council member Peterson. He was truly understanding of the real estate sector’s plight and its effect on Palm Coast’s overall economy. He asked "Why don’t we try to find a way to say yes rather than ways to say no?" I applaud him.
In the end, council voted to continue the issue to the next workshop in two weeks, providing time to investigate other jurisdiction’s solutions. It will not be on next week’s council meeting agenda.
If you feel strongly about this issue, I urge you to contact members of the city council. I believe that the "special event" option can be made to work as long as fees are not too high. I echo Alan Peterson. Let’s find a way to say yes.
7 replies
  1. Jim McClellan
    Jim McClellan says:

    Open House signs

    There should be no restrictions and NO FEES for open house signs except that they should be removed at end of day for the open house. Put them up Sat morning and take them down Sunday evening if weekend open house. NO FEE. BUT, if you leave them, then a $100 fine. Require a realtor name or owner name on the sign to insure fines sent to right person.

    We did this out of courtesy and realtor policy where I came from. Therefore, no law was needed.

    Just regulate the signage like we do in Grand Haven for FOR SALE signs.

    A $300 fee is absolutely rediculous.

  2. Ursula Vassiliou
    Ursula Vassiliou says:

    Open House signs

    Seems rather strange in our current Real Estate crisis that open house signs are such a major issue in Palm Coast.

    Are the residents against selling these homes before they become another bank owned property? Are they not aware as to exactly what these foreclosures do to their property value?

    I say put out the signs respectfully, remove in a timely fashion and maybe we can all get back on track in this trying time for all.

    Another point, it would be nice if those running for office were on the same page. Seems their signs go by a different set of rules and not only are they put up in ugly little clusters and after the fact never removed. How about a fine for them?

  3. Cyd Weeks
    Cyd Weeks says:

    what liability??

    \”seemed to agree that the city should not open itself to potential liability. He noted that other businesses (like restaurants) were hurting as much as real estate and that they should just deal with it.\”
    What exactly is the liability? I asked for the study as to how many accidents occured because of signs. I then asked for the results of the study since the ordinance has not been enforced. I’ve received neither. As a matter of fact, even though I emailed all the council members and the mayor, other than getting the automatic email saying my email had been received, I have gotten no communication from any of the members or Mayor.

  4. Patricia Willson
    Patricia Willson says:

    Open House Sign Update

    There are too many people in other people\\\\\\’s business. If we each had a realistic view of just how unimportant things like Open House signs are, how much it isn\\\\\\’t any of our business and spent even 1/2 as much energy trying to regulate the rest of the world to suit \\\\\\\”our\\\\\\\” vision of what should and should not be and put that energy into bettering \\\\\\\”ourselves\\\\\\\” . . . how much better off would we all be? There is WAY TOO MUCH SELF IMPORTANCE BEING SHOWN HERE. Get a life and get out of mine!

  5. Frank Meeker
    Frank Meeker says:

    Open House Sign Update

    Hi all,

    Let\\\\\\’s face it, there has been an increasing number of signs advertising practically anything along the city ROWs over the last year, but does the entire class have recess taken away on this issue, or do just a few?

    Legal consul has told the council that it\\\\\\’s an all or nothing deal. Nobody gets recess. Council still has questions hoping there\\\\\\’s a way to still allow a few out to play.

    With great trepidation and focusing strictly on the issue of open house signage for real estate sales, I\\\\\\’m going to comment, and ask for some help. What I\\\\\\’d like to know with some real data (a questionnaire would be better than nothing) is (and don\\\\\\’t kill the messenger on the question because I get e-mails and comments too), \\\\\\\”do open house signs have any significant impact on sales or is it just something to placate the client or make the agent convince the client they\\\\\\’re doing everything possible to advance the sale?\\\\\\\” That basically sums up the comments I hear. If the answer is no (20 open houses over last six months, no sales),…why argue? If the answer is yes (20 open houses over last six months, 8 sales), well if there is a demonstrated need…we need to do what we can implement something fair that helps get \\\\\\\”excessive product\\\\\\\” off the for sale column, and into the sold one in the best interests of the city.

    The visual clutter issue is one of a person\\\\\\’s personal perception,…it bothers some, others look right past it. Much like a parent in their kids room. Some hate the mess, some ignore it. It\\\\\\’s very tough to pick a right or wrong answer there. I really haven\\\\\\’t recieved as much comment on this issue as I have on the cost.

    I\\\\\\’m also looking forward to seeing what the Tallahassee ordinance says, and am very interested in the review from the city attorney regarding other jurisdictions specifically, what did they do when their sign ordinance got challenged, what did the courts say,…and how was the challenged ordinance amended to comply with the courts position. Maybe we implement what they did as we don\\\\\\’t need to reinvent the wheel here if we don\\\\\\’t have to. I\\\\\\’d just like to be fair to all sides of the argument. Just my thoughts.


  6. John Parker
    John Parker says:

    Posting of yard type signs

    PROPOSED CITY ORDINANCE: Any Person, Business or Organization who wishes to post a sign (no larger than 2\\’x2\\’), on public right of way must post a bond of $100.00, with the Code Enforcement Department, valid for 72 hours. If the sign(s) are not removed after 72 hours (and are removed by the city) the person/company forfeits the $100.00 bond and is cited to pay an additional $150.00 to the city.
    This applies to ANY, person, organization, business or policital organization posting ANY type of sign within the 2\\’x2\\’ rule.
    The Code Enforcement Department will issue coded stickers (1 per sign) to the applicant who will affix the stickers to the front of each sign.
    This will identify the owners of the signs and establish the necessary paper trail for enforcement, if necessary. In the case of political signage, because there are literally hundreds of them to be displayed, the responsible party is identified by the name/photo on the signs, therefore negaing the need for coded stickers.
    This proposed ordinance covers EVERYONE who wants to post signs on public right of way, eliminating the possibility of a discrimination lawsuit.

  7. Al Fatone
    Al Fatone says:


    If Grand Haven has a policy on for sale signs then we should go by the rules. The only difference is the rules should be all the same not different in each village.

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