The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, February 9, 1999, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners' Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson, Vice Chair; Robert A. Pool; Rhonda H. Gerber; and G. Richard Swartz, Jr. Others present were: Alvin B. Jackson, Jr., Deputy County Manager; Sanford (Sandy) A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Administrative Supervisor, Board of County Commissioners' Office; and Marlene S. Foran, Deputy Clerk.
It was noted that an Addendum No. 1 had been distributed prior to the start of the meeting.
ADDENDUM NO. 1
COMMISSIONER CADWELL - CHAIRMAN AND DISTRICT NO. 5
On a motion by Commr. Swartz, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously by a 5 - 0 vote, the Board approved a request for approval to authorize rental payments to Sarvis Warehouse Storage for additional storage space for Sheriff's property and evidence section on a month-to-month basis at $270.00 per month for three storage units; subject to final review and approval by the County Attorney.
WORKSHOP - BILLBOARDS
Commr. Cadwell opened the workshop on billboards and stated that those present would have the opportunity to make public comment during the workshop this date. Ms. Sharon Farrell, Senior Director, Department of Growth Management, distributed a copy of Chapter XI Signs to the Board for their review.
At this time, Commr. Swartz presented a video titled Scenic America addressing signage in general and billboards.
Commr. Pool declared a Conflict of Interest because of an appearance of a conflict as the President of a corporation that owns real property on which a billboard is now located. He stated that he would participate in the discussion only.
Commr. Hanson stated that she also uses a billboard for advertising purposes; at which time, Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, explained that advertising on a billboard would not disqualify Commr. Hanson from participating in the discussion or vote.
At this time, Commr. Cadwell opened the public comment portion of the meeting.
Ms. Cecelia Bonifay, Attorney, Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson, appeared before the Board and expressed the concern of her clients that there has been no dialogue between staff and the billboard industry. She stated that a number of those people that are affected by the direction of the Board were present in the audience today to determine the Board's direction because, if the current existing sign ordinance was the only ordinance on the table, her clients were diametrically opposed to that direction. She addressed the Scenic America promotional material that had been shown on the monitor and stated that some follow-up was necessary to determine what has been the impact on those locations, has there been litigation, has there been challenges, and what has it cost those local governments in terms of time and money in litigation costs. She stated that the Board has to focus on the overall appearance issues of the community, and it was easier to accomplish that task within a city than in a large rural county with mainly state and federal highways that are major corridors throughout the area. She stated that they were present to listen and become involved in the process.
Commr. Swartz responded to comments by Ms. Bonifay and explained that the County was currently working on a landscape ordinance that would address the appearance issues and that the County Attorney was looking at the underground utility issue and these issues are important to the overall package.
Ms. Bonifay stated that her clients have instructed her to start with the existing ordinance in the Land Development Regulations, Section 11.01.04 Off-Site Signs in terms of size, height, spacing, and land use. She stated that the County has been very restrictive and statistics show that the number of billboards has decreased in Lake County. She questioned if County staff has performed an inventory and analysis of where billboards could be located. She stated that, because of the commercial locational criteria and the way in which County staff was interpreting the language, there are very few sites that would be eligible for placement of signs. She discussed billboards along the state and federal highways through Lake County and the implication of the major expansions that will occur along said roadways.
Commr. Swartz distributed a list of Florida communities that have a billboard ban and stated that the City of Eustis, City of Umatilla, City of Clermont, and Howey-in-the-Hills are cities in Lake County that have a ban on billboards.
Mr. Jimmy Crawford, Attorney, Richey & Crawford, appeared before the Board and discussed the Scenic America promotional video and differentiated his cases with some of the cases that were shown in the video. Mr. Crawford stated that Houston, Texas banned billboards and in 10 years had a twenty-five (25%) percent reduction in the number of billboards and Lake County regulated billboards more stingingly and in 10 years had a twenty-four (24%) percent reduction in billboards. He stated that Lake County was not suffering from a proliferation of billboards, and he would support an analysis of the number of billboards that are permitable in the County. He discussed federal aid highways and noted that billboards along those roadways could not be taken down without paying for them pursuant to the federal act and approximately ninety (90%) percent of the billboards are on those roads. He stated that the 775 square feet in total display area, under Chapter XI, Section 11.01.04, was intended to be per face, however, has been reinterpreted to be the entire sign or 380 feet per face, and the sign ordinance should be amended to indicate that intent.
Commr. Swartz clarified that, if the Board adopts a sign ordinance that states that all existing billboards are considered nonconforming, existing billboards that would be required to come down along future highway and road widening projects would not be allowed to be replaced.
Mr. Pat Smallwood appeared before the Board and explained that originally off-site signs were 672 square feet, which was 14 feet by 48 feet per face with a fifteen (15%) percent carry over rounded to 775 square feet to allow for projections, pop outs or side outs. He stated that two (2) years ago the County stated that the 775 square feet was total for both faces.
Mr. Gerald S. Livingston, Attorney, representing Chancellor Media Corporation, appeared before the Board and stated that the Scenic America promotional video provides only the negative side and provides no positive side to billboards. He provided a point counterpoint response to some of the issues that were raised in the video and stated that there were serious misinformations contained in the video. He stated that Lake County and the billboard industry has a unique opportunity to address the issue of aesthetic appearance which can be beneficial to the County, the billboard industry, and business community that uses billboards. He encouraged the Board to pursue a landscaping ordinance because it lends heavily to the aesthetic appearance of the County and explained that the billboard industry has incorporated landscaping features in their locations and made them substantially more attractive. He stated that one of the problems was that the current structures are not eye appealing because they are nonconforming and became nonconforming in 1971 when Florida adopted the Highway Beautification Act. He stated that they would like to look at the attrition that has been suffered in Lake County, how many billboards were conforming, how many were nonconforming, and areas in which the industry can assist the County in achieving this opportunity to make billboards more eye appealing. He stated that he would provide to the Board a portfolio of photographs illustrating building techniques and eye appealing billboards.
Mr. Joe Watson, Real Estate Manager, Chancellor Media Corporation, appeared before the Board and stated that the last billboard that they constructed in Lake County was located on Highway 27, south of Clermont, and explained that an old wooden structure was replaced with a 10 foot by 36 foot monopole illuminated structure with a tri-vision mechanism on the opposite side.
Mr. Livingston stated that visibility to the traveling public was the most important issue to the billboard and that was what they were trying to achieve. He asked that the Board provide the industry the opportunity to work with the Board to show what they can do and what kind of unique opportunities currently exist between the industry and the Commission to achieve an advancement of the aesthetic interest of Lake County and of the industry. He stated that billboards do not exist in Florida because the industry has forced itself on the tourist industry, the billboard industry exist in Florida because they serve a vital function to the tourist industry of the State of Florida. He stated that they need to continue to provide to the tourist industry an opportunity to effectively advertise to the traveling public, and billboards have proven to be one of the most cost effective means of advertising.
Ms. Jean Kaminski, Executive Director, Home Builders Association of Lake County, appeared before the Board and discussed the Scenic America promotional video, and stated that Lake County has the choice today to give staff direction to work with the industry to revise the current requirements, and she would hope that the Board does not consider an overall ban. She stated that billboards do serve a purpose, and that the public was served by the billboards, noting that they can be regulated. She encouraged the Board to find a negotiated medium point that serves the billboard industry, the public that uses billboards, and the businesses that use billboards. She requested that the Board work with the industry to revise the current regulations to control the billboards and not ban the billboards.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
At 10:25 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess and reconvene at 10:45 a.m.
WORKSHOP - BILLBOARDS (CONTINUED)
Commr. Cadwell announced that a billboard workshop would be scheduled on March 9, 1999, at 10:30 a.m., and requested that the industry be prepared to participate in the workshop. It was noted that the first public hearing on the On-Site Sign Ordinance has been scheduled on February 16, 1999, at 9:00 a.m., and the final public hearing would be moved from March 2, 1999 to March 9, 1999, at 5:05 p.m..
Mr. Alvin Jackson, Deputy County Manager, informed the Board that a presentation on Horizon West would be scheduled on March 9, 1999.
Mr. George Karst, owner of a small billboard company with 52 faces, appeared before the Board and stated that he agrees with the industry that one of the limitations that the Board might impose in terms of improving the aesthetics was by restricting the industry from rebuilding wooden structures which he does find less aesthetic than the monopole structures. He stated that this was his business, and he was very distressed by the direction of the Board and does not see himself as being able to expand. He stated that signs can be problematic aesthetically but so are buildings. He stated that the billboards serve a purpose and the business people in Lake County will suffer tremendously if the Board is excessively restrictive or prohibits billboards all together. He requested that the Board allow the industry to work very closely with staff in developing an off-site sign ordinance.
Commr. Hanson stated that the widening of the roads would take care of nonconforming uses and expressed concern with the ability to place a billboard on any commercial property with no restrictions other than the size of the billboard. She further expressed concern that there was a lot of commercial property along S.R. 46 with the potential of a billboard on every location. She suggested that the Board find some middle ground without a complete ban by looking at the aesthetics, the landscaping, and providing incentives for replacement of existing signs. She stated that she has requested staff to move forward with a Small Area Study for the Mt. Plymouth and Sorrento area and suggested that the Board may want to include in the study additional regulations in that area.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he was in favor of putting a ban on any new billboard permits until such time that the billboard ordinance was adopted some time in April which would provide the Board amble time to work with the industry.
Commr. Swartz stated that he had been involved with the rewriting of the sign ordinance for the City of Tavares a few years ago and during those discussions he fought for the smaller, lower billboards because they were less objectionable than the current trend in billboards which are viewed as the more elegant monopole. He stated that, during the first few years as a County Commissioner, the Commission established a committee to look at signs; however, the Board voted to disband the committee and a major rewrite of the sign ordinance as well as addressing the issue of billboards did not occur. He stated that it was long overdue that the Board act, and the proposed landscaping ordinance was an aggressive much needed ordinance that would help the Board in that area, and he would support the Board looking at the issue of telephone poles and the placement of underground utilities. He stated that the first reading of the on-site sign ordinance was a good first step for a sign ordinance and businesses would prosper when signage becomes more uniform and attractive. He noted that he supported a ban on billboards in November 1998 because he did not want to see any more billboards go up until the Board had an opportunity to determine their direction, and he still feels that was the correct position. He stated that he would like to see the Board move forward and give instructions to staff with regard to the billboard issue that would allow the Board the time to work out what the majority of the Board wants to do on billboards and, during that period of time, not continue to be threatened with installation of additional billboards.
Commr. Swartz made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Gerber for purposes of discussion, to instruct staff to prepare an ordinance and schedule advertising for such an ordinance that would ban all future billboards in the unincorporated area of Lake County, and would consider all existing billboards as nonconforming, and during the period of time that said ordinance was being prepared and the County was preparing to advertise and go to public hearings, staff be instructed not to issue permits that would be inconsistent with that ordinance.
Under discussion, Commr. Gerber stated that, as the Board talks about banning and noncompliance, they are going to have to look at a phase out, and she would suggest that a ten (10) year phase out would be fair.
Mr. Minkoff responded to a question presented by Commr. Cadwell and explained that, if the County has advertised an ordinance and substantial changes are made to that ordinance, the County would be forced to readvertise the ordinance before approval by the Board. He stated that the Board does have the ability to delay issuing new permits for off-site signs during the next month while staff was preparing the ordinance.
Commr. Swartz clarified that the motion on the floor simply makes those billboards on the state, federal or interstate highway systems nonconforming and during the process of future road widening projects those nonconforming signs that would be required to come down would not be allowed to go back up. He stated that as an ordinance in progress, based on the opinion of the County Attorney, the County would have the ability to cease issuing permits for billboards during the period of time that a new sign ordinance was being prepared and scheduled for advertising.
Commr. Gerber clarified that she brought up for discussion in November 1998 the issue of on-site and off-site signs because of the proliferation of signs that was occurring along U.S. Highway 441 between the City of Tavares and Lake Sumter Community College.
Commr. Cadwell stated that it would be beneficial to know the number of signs that are in the County, the size, and the type of road that the sign was located on.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which carried by a 4 - 0 vote.
Commr. Pool abstained from the discussion and vote.
COMMISSIONER CADWELL - CHAIRMAN AND DISTRICT NO. 5
Commr. Cadwell instructed staff to change the meeting time for the meeting scheduled on February 24, 1999 with the City of Leesburg, Sumter County and the Board of County Commissioners from 5:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
COMMISSIONER GERBER - DISTRICT NO. 1
Commr. Gerber brought up for discussion a five (5) day rule in which Code Enforcement tries to respond to a complaint within five (5) days of receiving the complaint and expressed concern with the lengthy response time of five (5) days.
Ms. Sharon Farrell, Senior Director, Department of Growth Management, stated that the case load per inspector was over 800 cases per year, and that the average case load statewide was approximately 500 cases per year per inspector. She stated that in many cases it may be two (2) weeks before the County can respond to a complaint.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that the Code Enforcement Board has been averaging fifty (50) or more cases every month, and the Board may ultimately be forced to go to more than one Code Enforcement Board due to the number of code enforcement cases.
Ms. Farrell stated that staff does respond immediately to an environmental complaint or to a public health, safety or welfare issue. She stated that the Department of Growth Management would probably be requesting an additional four (4) code enforcement inspectors in the near future and explained that the County has adopted the Standard Housing Code, and was looking at a more restrictive sign ordinance, and landscape ordinance that will require a response to calls regarding those issues.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 11:36 p.m.
__________________________________ WELTON G. CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK