Pending its second public hearing and final approval at Marathon City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, March 8, the City of Marathon will have a new sign ordinance for 2022 and beyond.
“Our existing traffic code is seven years out of date,” City of Marathon attorney Steve Williams told council when presenting the rewritten ordinance at the February 8 city council meeting, referring to a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision which ruled that all signs should be treated the same regardless of message content. The new ordinance classifies signs only as temporary or permanent and sets restrictions for each. It does not address the style, color or shape of panels.
“If you have to read a sign to determine whether it’s legal or not, your sign code is illegal,” Williams said. He then urged the council to pass a new sign ordinance as soon as possible to stave off attempts at the state level to preempt the city’s ability to pass its own laws.
The proposed ordinance is heavily based on a similar code adopted by Monroe County in recent years, but tailored to Marathon’s specific needs and challenges.
As currently proposed, the ordinance does not require the replacement of existing permanent signs. However, if derogatory signs mounted on the ground or on a building (in accordance with the new ordinance) need to be maintained, repaired or replaced, the owner must first apply for a sign number and then a permit. The temporary signs, however, will be affected immediately – as soon as the proposed ordinance becomes law, possibly in early March.
Here are some other highlights from the order that will require further reading before it becomes official:
1. Pennants, floating signs, wind activated banners, streamers, balloons, cold air inflatables or other fixed overhead signs used for commercial advertising are prohibited.
2. Animated signs such as video or audio, including vehicles displaying electronic signs or what are essentially large screens, are prohibited. All messages on electronic signs must be static, although multi-cycle scrolling text and still images are permitted.
3. Vehicle signs (a sign mounted or painted on any vehicle, trailer, boat, etc.) parked on public property, including rights of way or on private property, so as to be clearly visible from any public right of way, are also prohibited. However, vehicles that feature commercial signs and are parked in front of the business in legal parking spots are permitted.
4. The city has created a definition and rules for temporary signs that apply to event signs, election signs or garage sale signs. In residential neighborhoods, up to three temporary signs are permitted per lot as long as they do not exceed 6 square feet. Temporary signs will be allowed out for 60 days. In non-residential neighborhoods, the cumulative area of three or fewer signs cannot exceed 12 square feet and the 60-day rule also applies.
5. The new ordinance also deals with what it calls abandoned signs; for example, signs for businesses that have moved or closed. The city may require the owner to dismantle the sign structure and remove it completely if the property remains vacant for a certain period of time; however, decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
6. Signs over 40 square feet or over 20 feet high must be designed by a state licensed engineer. Signs hanging from chains are prohibited.
7. The new ordinance contains provisions for the safe placement of signs so as not to obstruct sight lines at intersections, driveways and other areas of concern. Failure to comply with these provisions could result in violations of the code.
When the proposed sign code is enacted, new sign sizes will be determined based on location—on US1 or a frontage road adjacent to US1, or on an urban road or shoreline—and whether it is single sided or double sided. For example, a parcel on a city side street with less than 151 feet of frontage can build a new sign of 40 square feet if single-sided or 80 square feet if double-sided. A lot on US1, with over 300 feet of frontage, could build a 200 square foot sign or a 400 square foot double-sided sign.
Marathon’s proposed sign ordinance provides exceptions for hospitals, corner lots, gas stations, convenience stores, marinas, schools, churches, day care centers, individual charter boats and drive-through transportation, among others.
The full text of the originally proposed order, before the changes agreed to at the Feb. 8 meeting, is available at ci.marathon.fl.us under the “Meetings and Agendas” tab. The public will have another chance to comment on the ordinance at its second and potentially final hearing at the Marathon City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 8 at 5:30 p.m. The revised ordinance will be available on the city’s website shortly before the meeting. .