St Augustine begins removing derelict signs


400-HARDEES-SIGN-REMOVALThe next time you pass by, you will notice that the large steel sign frame, at the corner of King Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard, has been removed; just one of several business locations where the owners have voluntarily complied with provisions of an updated sign ordinance that was passed by the St Augustine City Commission.

The four-month old ordinance comes on the heels of growing complaints filed by local residents regarding the skeletal frameworks of large derelict signs; often abandoned after their owners go out of business.

The King Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard lot, owned by the Henry M. Whetstone Revocable Living Trust, is the former site of Hardees. Although the building was razed quite a few years ago, the pylon sign framework was left standing, on purpose.

“The next property owner will need to build a sign,” Hank Whetstone explained to Historic City News. “The scrap-metal value of the steel sign is a couple of hundred dollars; but, if it had been incorporated into the next generation of sign, it could have saved the new owner thousands.”

“This ordinance was in response to the growing number of signs and sign structures in the city. At one time, these structures held the sign of a business at that location,” Public Affairs Director Paul Williamson told Historic City News. “But, after the business is closed, their sign must be taken down. A commercial building in the city cannot be left empty while displaying business signs. Likewise, in the case of demolished buildings, the sign structure may not remain.”

300 PAUL WILLIAMSON COSAAccording to Williamson, that is clearly not an option any longer. In fact, this week, the city’s Code Enforcement Division initiated the process of notifying property owners that the clock was ticking on the removal of the signs.

The first step is for the city to reach a finding that the appurtenant commercial property is indeed vacant by applying commercial vacancy criteria.

“We will make a physical inspection of the premises to determine vacancy of the on-site business, the cessation, disconnection or closing of any related account for any essential utilities such as water, sewer or power to the on-site business, or verifying that there is a lapse or termination of business tax receipt related to the on-site business,” Williamson announced to local Historic City News reporters. “This verification process takes time, but once it is determined that the sign is vacant, the property owner is notified and within six months must remove the sign or fix it to be in compliance with the ordinance.”