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IOP targets vehicles used as billboards

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IOP targets vehicles used as billboards

Dennis Samuelson was told last spring he could not display a sign in the back of his car because town officials said it acts as a billboard when parked on the street.

ISLE OF PALMS — Commercial vehicles will face tougher regulations if City Council adopts a new recommendation aimed at curbing illegal advertising.

The new approach is needed because some commercial vehicles that are parked for hours in a high-visibility location are in effect billboards, which are not allowed on the island, said Douglas Kerr, director of planning, zoning and building.

“There are typically several incidents a year where someone brings a large vehicle with signage to the island and sets it up in a way to attract attention and then leaves it there until we contact them and inform them that they cannot leave vehicles as a method of advertising,” Kerr said in an e-mail.

Mayor Dick Cronin said the possible change in rules governing commercial vehicle parking is a matter of fine-tuning the city code to make it more consistent with other communities.

“We did have some vehicles park on the island for the sole purpose of advertising,” Cronin said.

A commercial vehicle is defined in the newly-proposed ordinance as being longer than 20 feet and displaying a commercial message such as a business name, logo, address, phone number or other information identifying a business. Vans used or designed for use in the transporting of goods or merchandise would also be affected.

Under the newly-proposed rule, commercial vehicles would be limited to two hours of parking in the business district unless the driver is part of a construction or maintenance project at that location.

The business district runs from City Hall to the beach between 10th and 14th avenues.

The proposed new law would also ban commercial vehicle parking in residential areas except for service calls or expeditious loading or unloading of goods or merchandise.

Violators could face a $500 fine plus court costs, which could bring the penalty to about $1,000, officials said.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the new law governing parking for commercial vehicles. The Commission recommendation could go to Council in January.

Commission Chairman Noel Scott referred an inquiry on the newly-proposed regulation to Kerr.

As part of the proposed change, a section of the existing town code would be eliminated. It says that a sign on a parked vehicle or trailer is banned if its primary purpose is to attract the attention of the public.

That rule came into play last spring when Councilman Michael Loftus contacted city officials about businessman Dennis Samuelson’s car, which was parked close to Palm Boulevard with rear window advertising facing the road.

Loftus said Friday that he is open to reviewing the change proposed by the Planning Commission. He worried that replacing the existing law might create a situation such as a liquor store with five cars parked in front advertising different brands of vodka.

Loftus said re-development of a parking lot at the corner of the boulevard and the IOP Connector has been the catalyst for the problem of roadside advertising on parked vehicles.

“Basically this was a non-issue until that re-development happened,” he said.

Samuelson said he was told that he could face a fine of $1,000 per day unless he moved the car so that the rear window did not face the road. He complied.

On Friday, Samuelson said that he has since sold the vacation rental business that he advertised on the car. Samuelson indicated he supported getting rid of the town law that caused problems for him.

“It’s probably good that it’s defined so it doesn’t get left up to someone’s judgement,” he said.

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