City Council passed several amendments to the new sign ordinance that took effect on April 1. Enforcement of the new ordinance was delayed while waiting for a stakeholders' committee to agree to several amendments and council's final approval.
Four areas of concern centered around allowing A-frame signs with time, size and placement restrictions; feather banners; window signage; and sign wavers.
The amendment that drew the most discussion was feather banners being prohibited anywhere in the city with the exception of model home sites.
Several who approached the podium during public input shared concerns of fairness by discriminating against those prohibited from using them, First Amendment rights and a fair cross section of resident and business representation on the stakeholders' committee.
Councilmember Richard Leon was satisfied with the stakeholder representation, but said he would not support the amendments for two reasons.
"I'm not happy with the 50 percent sign coverage on windows and the feather banners," Leon said. "I think all businesses should be able to have one."
Likewise, Councilmember Rick Williams expressed a dislike for the models only discrimination.
"I've always had a problem with feather banners for models only," he said. "And here we are allowing four at model homes, why do they need four? I think one banner per all businesses or not at all."
Councilmember Lenny Nesta was puzzled by the amount of discussion after the stakeholders' committee did their work.
"Why are we even discussing changing this at the 11th hour?" Nesta said. "It's been worked on for months already."
Councilmember Jim Burch likened the amendments to a trip to the dentist.
"I cannot support this, but not for the free speech reasons. If we allow feather banners anywhere we should allow them everywhere," he said. "I just don't like this the way it is, but no matter what happens not everybody will be happy with it."
The sign ordinance that is now in effect includes one A-frame sign per business to be displayed during business hours only; not to be placed in rights-of-way, parking spaces or sidewalks; and no larger than 2 feet by 3 feet.
It allows feather banners at model homes and sign coverage of up to 50 percent of retail windows, an increase from 30 percent, and sign wavers are not allowed in rights-of-way. Wavers must be on private or leased property only.
Council voted 5-2 to approve the amendments with Burch and Nesta casting the dissenting votes. Councilmember Derrick Donnell had an excused absence from the meeting.
Council unanimously approved the city's bargaining agreement with the Cape Coral Firefighters' Union Local 2424. In return for the concessions, union members will receive a salary bonus of 5 percent within the next 30 days.
City Manager John Szerlag reminded council that this agreement is the final piece of the pension reform negotiations with the three employee unions that will save the city taxpayers $65 million over the next 25 years. All three union agreements will save the city $185 million over that time period.