By Kelli Jo Hull
For Hometown News
The Port Orange City Council is looking for a way to remove banner signs from fences outside local schools.
But for now, the council will keep looking at the signs.
In a special meeting, the council discussed a complaint from a Port Orange resident about signs at Port Orange Elementary School on Dunlawton Avenue. The complaint claimed the signs posed a safety hazard for students by distracting drivers while also creating unsightly clutter in the community.
But supporters of the school banners are concerned about the possible loss of funds.
"City code does not allow off-site signs," Community Development Director Wayne Clark said.
Mr. Clark explained signs must advertise something that is produced or sold where they are located. In the past, most of the banners at Port Orange schools were positioned on fences facing the inside of the school facilities. Since they did not face the road, they were not considered to be off-site signage and were acceptable. As school funding has become tighter, though, schools have become more aggressive in selling banner signs while making them more visible to the public.
Mr. Clark also brought up another issue, referencing the state law that regulates the state's educational facilities and the possibility the law allows broad authority for the school districts to regulate signs, superseding city codes.
However, Councilman Bob Ford said, "If we open it up for schools to do it, so can others."
Councilman Ford said positive eye appeal of Port Orange is in large part due to the city's discipline in enforcing city code, which limits signage in the community as contrasted to other cities in the area.
Mayor Allen Green and Councilman Dennis Kennedy also expressed strong reservations about adjusting the code.
Councilman Ford suggested the interpretation of Florida laws allowing the school district to regulate school signage should be reviewed and, if found applicable, should be followed. The city could then work with the Volusia County School Board to make sure the banner signs are attractive, well maintained and consistent, he said.
Local Realtor Corey Berman was adamantly opposed to the banners, stating they "created road hazards" and were benefiting the schools, not the community.
Port Orange Elementary PTA representative Rachel Truxall made an impassioned plea to allow the schools to continue selling the advertising banners as they provide funds for extracurricular club activities, which had been cut due to lack of funding.
Spruce Creek High School teacher and soccer coach Keith Costner echoed Ms. Truxall's sentiments stating the sales of banners were a "quick and easy way to raise funds" for school programs that were desperately needed. Coach Costner noted Spruce Creek's ability to achieve a first class soccer program was helped by funds from the signs.
Among nine residents speaking before the council, eight were sign proponents.
Councilman Ford made a motion to look further into the state law and, after an amendment was added that the schools would not be forced to remove the banners until the study was completed, his motion passed unanimously.