Venice takes sign odinance to task

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VENICE, Fla. - For years we've heard about tough regulations on business owners in Venice when it comes to signs. The has traditionally been concerned about too much visual clutter, but now city leaders are listening as they rewrite the rule book…which is still 45 pages long.

Workers at the Venice Olive Oil Company used to place “Olivia”, their six foot high tube dude, outside to help bring in foot traffic to their Venice Avenue shop. Thanks to code officials, she's been put on house arrest. "As she has been inside, I can see people turn around say nothing is down there. She used to draw attention and at least intrigue the people to come in and visit our store," says Engrid Blokijl.

It's an example of the debate going on in the city: balancing being business friendly while maintaining visual quality.

"It's a beautiful place, and I don't want to lose it by cluttering it up with signs," says city council member David Sherman.

Tuesday, Venice's planning board and city leaders listened to a new proposed sign ordinance, which looks at the specific rules for each kind of sign possible -- including those like sandwich boards, which are now becoming more popular.

"Do we want that, or do we not want that? Do we want to limit it to sidewalk cafes? Do we want everyone to pull inside? How do we be fair? That's what I want to hear," says Sherman.

Regulations include how long electronic signs can stay on a message before changing. And the size of the signs could now be determined by the speed limit, amount of lanes, and size of the building.

The new ordinance would relax regulations on signs where the letters can be changed. Info in the window would now be able to take up more space.

And what about Olivia? "It's a shame, in a sense, because she is kind of artsy."

Art as signage is still being defined, posing the age-old question: what is art? "It's difficult, it really is. You can't have and ordinance that is all encompassing. It's difficult to cover all the bases all the time," says Sherman.

"Olivia has got to get out. She is getting skinny. She needs fresh air. (laughs)”

The owner of Olivia says she may be allowed back outside but she can't be holding anything.

Tuesday’s meeting was the seventh meeting for city officials on this issue. There will be one more before it heads to city council for approval.