CEO lifts Naples sign ordinance violation

Sign in Question

Sign in Question

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — A permanent structure and its business sign can stay in place following the reversal of a decision that it was in violation of the Naples Sign Ordinance.

The sign and the 16-foot-tall structure were deemed okay by the Naples Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Renee Carter on the afternoon of Oct. 14.

Four days prior to that outcome, the business owner had put up a message on a marquee, calling the CEO to task for declaring the sign in violation.

Carter said the recent sign incident points to the need for the town to clarify the language of its Sign Ordinance — something that the Naples Board of Selectmen has been considering since late summer.

“Basically, there are problems with the Sign Ordinance; and we have had an extreme amount of complaints about banners, flags, and multiple signs in front of businesses this summer,” Carter said.

“We’ve identified the problem. We need to find a solution that fits the needs of all the community,” she said.

Meanwhile, businessman Dan Lajoie said his sign was referred to as a “model sign” by a few of the people who served on the committee that wrote the Sign Ordinance.

“My sign was a perfect sign for the ordinance. In fact, two members of the committee that wrote the Sign Ordinance — both of whom I talked to – said my sign was what they had in mind when the ordinance was written,” Lajoie said.

The sign in question belongs to the business named The Naples Barn, which houses antiques and is located on the corner of Route 302 and Route 35.

In mid-September, one of the business owners received a Notice of Violation (NOV) from CEO Renee Carter, saying that the sign was bigger than the allotted size when taking into account the surface of the structure upon which the sign was placed.

On Oct. 9, Mike Gotto, of Stoneybrook Consultants, Inc., filed an appeal of the NOV with the Town of Naples. At the time, the members of the Ordinance Review Committee were being notified so that a date could be set for a hearing.

On Oct. 11, Lajoie put a message on his roadside marquee, telling people to call the Naples Town Manager regarding the sign violation and providing the phone number.

On Oct. 14, the violation status was lifted.

“Per our conversation today, October 14, 2015, I have decided to allow the sign that was placed at 679 Roosevelt Trail, as is, with no modifications. There will be no need for a hearing with the Ordinance Review Committee,” Carter wrote in a letter to Grotto.

During a phone interview on Tuesday, Carter said she reversed her decision after having discussions with the people who drafted the existing Sign Ordinance.

“I did talk to people who wrote the Sign Ordinance,” she said.

“In talking to John Thompson, he said it was done when there was no Sign Ordinance in Naples,” she said.

“This one in my view was ambiguous,” she said, explaining why she originally decided the sign did not comply with the Sign Ordinance.

Carter stressed the issuing of an NOV is not a personal thing. Her job is to uphold the ordinances as she understands them, she said. After all, the Naples voters approved each and every ordinance on the books, she said.

“Signs are the hardest things to regulate,” she said.

Lajoie said he thinks the Naples Sign Ordinance is fairly straightforward. The size of the sign is addressed in one section; and the manner of display — or structure on which the sign is posted — is addressed in another section of the Sign Ordinance, he said.

“It’s black and white,” he said.

For Carter, this interpretation could mean that business owners can place a sign up to 32 square feet in size on an inflatable raft or on a pontoon boat or on another large surface that is distracting to people behind the wheel of a vehicle. Case in point, one of the Causeway businesses had posted a sign on an inflatable raft, which caused concerns that the inflatable might blow into traffic, she said.

Lajoie said the Naples Barn business sign was designed to blend into the aesthetics of the Causeway.

“I wanted this beautiful sign. The person who constructed the sign, he is a post and beam builder. The business name is Authentic Timber Frames. Almost daily, people stop and ask who built it,” Lajoie said.

As far as the marquee, or message board, goes: That will require a sign permit — with a fee attached — if Lajoie plans to continue to use it. He thinks that second sign was grandfathered in, but he has no plans to pursue that path, he said.

The marquee served its purpose, he said.

“The support I have received from town residents and town business owners is just overwhelming,” he said.

Likewise, some residents backed the CEO after seeing the marquee message.

“One of the things that the sign did was it caused people who saw it to call me and express support of the notice of violation,” Carter said.

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