'THIS REALLY NEEDS TO HAPPEN': Local developer says city's sign code is ‘flawed'

Matt Algarin
Crews at HarborWalk Village are in the process of putting up a sign near the foot of the Marler Bridge. Legendary Inc. CEO Peter Bos says the sign has been out there "for a while" and has nothing to do with recent discussions about the city's sign code.

As the city continues to debate changes to its ground sign regulations, the hesitation is posing problems for some property owners along the harbor.

"This is actually holding up a really big, national something that could be very positive for our harbor," Legendary CEO Peter Bos told the city council. "Time is very critical... this has been delay, delay. This really needs to happen."

During Monday night's City Council meeting, city leaders once again took up the sign discussion and were presented with two recommended motions to choose from. The first would ease restrictions in the existing sign code, the second would follow the Local Planning Agency's recommendation to stick with the status quo.

City leaders didn't choose either. Instead, they approved a third option by a 5-1 vote. Councilman Jim Wood voted against and Councilwoman Sandy Trammell was not in attendance.

The proposed ordinance that was ultimately rejected would have allowed for two ground signs, not to exceed 160-square-feet, for every 500-linear feet of street frontage, with any remaining portion of frontage guided by the city's current ordinance. The signs would have had to be separated by 150 feet.

For example, if a property owner had 1,450-linear feet of frontage they would have been allowed a total of five ground signs. For the first 500-linear feet of frontage two ground signs would have been permitted at 160-square-feet, plus another two signs for the next 500 feet (not to exceed 160-square-feet), then one last sign for the remaining 450-feet of frontage.

Under the approved option, Councilman Jim Bagby suggested that they tighten up the guidelines to allow for one sign for every 350-feet of frontage, with the residual space to be guided by the current code.

"I can support one sign for every 350-feet, but we need to continue to look at the size of signs," he said. "We've been beating this horse for about four months now."

One of the problems for Bos was the fact that most of his businesses at HarborWalk Village are not on the main drag, so they don't have the visibility other businesses do, since Destin is a "one-road" town.

And while some would like more signs, not everyone agreed.

Destin Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Shane Moody told city leaders his board of directors was opposed to altering the current sign code.

"The visual clutter is already at too high of an amount," he said.

With the compromise vote, the proposed changes will be formed into a new ordinance by the city staff. The city's attorneys are currently deciding whether or not the new ordinance must go before the LPA again for review, or come back straight to the council.

For Bos, the option that was approved Monday night was the best out of the three presented, but it wasn't going to fix the city's sign code, which he said is "flawed."

"Somewhere down the road there has to be some time to look at this," he said.