DADE CITY — The Pasco County Commission is considering changes to the county’s sign ordinance in an effort to better regulate signage as well as to answer requests to allow LED-based digital boards.

Denise Hernandez, Pasco County zoning administrator, addressed the commission during its April 2 workshop held at the Pasco-Hernando State College East Campus.

“We were directed to look at allowing for LED-digital signs on commercial pieces of property,” Hernandez said. “The current Pasco County code does not allow LED signs, with the exception of community development districts and regional attractors.”

Hernandez said her department had held one-on-one meetings with each commissioner “and got really good feedback from each of you.”

She noted the commission, while looking at allowing them for commercial districts, needed to clarify its position on permitting LED signage for professional office districts and industrial districts.

The signage codes for regional attractor signs includes a prohibition in the mainly rural northeastern part of the county. In addition, the signs may not exceed 11 feet, can have digital face on both sides, have their digital display area limited to 50 percent, must be 100 feet from a residential area and cannot interchange messages.

“I know several of your constituents have reached out to you wanting them for new businesses they are building,” Hernandez said. “In some of those instances, those businesses happen to be in the master plans where the overlying area is professional office districts.”

The summary of direction given by the commission is to limit the uses to Office PO-1 and PO-2; Commercial C-1, C-2, C-3; Industrial I-1 and I-2, and Master Planned Unit Development for areas designated office, industrial and commercial.

They would be limited to display on Federal Aid primary roads as well as arterial and collector roads.

The signs would not be permitted within special planning or rural character areas or along scenic character roads.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey urged the county to “start small.”

“There are a lot of counties and cities around us that opened up to everything and are now trying to bring it back and change things,” she said.

She added: “I like the community looking nice. We have such a reputation for being so ugly, I suggest we start small and see how that goes. Then, we could add more.”

Commissioner Jack Mariano expressed his concerns that some of the present restrictions have prevented more economic development along U.S. 19-Gulf Coast Highway.

“How do you see these small signs across an 8-lane highway?” Mariano asked.

There was also discussion on the permissibility of banners and inflatable signs for businesses.

“If the argument for having digital signs is they can display their sales and specials out there more easily than putting up the other messaging up, I don’t see why they need all the other stuff,” Starkey said. “It makes it more cluttered and dangerous.”

She added the banners and inflatables are supposed to have permitting stickers on the back and told of her own experience checking those stickers and finding expired permits.

Mariano asked County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder if it is possible to write a code which prohibits the owner of an LED sign from having a banner.

“I think you probably can as along as it is a prohibition that is content neutral and applies to everybody,” Steinsnyder said.

“There are people who can’t afford LED,” Commission Chairman Ron Oakley said.

Commissioner Mike Wells said code enforcement “has better things to do” than chasing down expired banner permit stickers.

Hernandez said work would continue on the proposals and be brought back to the board at a later date.

No changes to the codes can occur prior to a public hearing on the issue.

A firm date for such a hearing has yet to be set.