If you Google “banner,” you’ll find among other definitions that it is a “a long strip of flexible material displaying a slogan, advertisement, etc., especially one suspended between two points.” You will also find they are typically used to refer to “something that represents a belief or principle.” I don’t know where Google gets its information, but it’s not from the City of Brooksville. This I can tell you.
In Brooksville, a banner is considered a very dangerous thing that can only be used for certain purposes by a business or building owner and only under the good graces of the City’s very professional ordinance executioners. It is a thing that is so dangerous to the public that its use must be as carefully controlled as one might try to control a virus, allowing them to be displayed only as permitted and only for specified lengths of time lest their presence spread and infect the innocence of a community’s children.
So, given the danger of such a thing perhaps it was foolish to think the city might understand and even appreciate Brooksville Main Street’s harmless proposal that the city’s businesses display a banner declaring their belief in Brooksville. All it was intended to be was a way for them to show support for their wonderful city and the Main Street Program in the middle of the real fear and economic devastation that Covid-19 was unleashing upon them. It would be a way for them to declare unequivocally that they were “in this together” and their spirit and determination to survive would not be deterred.
Thus, notwithstanding this perhaps overly positive view of the world, why is it not entirely perplexing that, upon learning 41 businesses thought it a swell idea and hung a banner proudly about their premises, the city declared them to be a danger to all and is threatening to issue citations and levy fines if they are not removed immediately?
*(Brooksville Main Street had created a novel way to get folks downtown and into stores by creating a “Scavenger Hunt” involving the Banners. Folks were invited to find as many banners as they could, take a selfie in front of the banner and store they loved the best, and submit it with their comments to Main Street for a prize. Please see the comments attached at the end of this post. These are reactions and appreciation of our City we need to nurture far and wide)!*
Now here’s a city that, when the first hint was heard that Covid-19 was creeping loose amidst the populace, closed and locked its doors and summarily withdrew into the recesses of the city’s famous hills and were not seen again physically for maybe two months.
Apparently, it was only after finally determining the city’s many hefty governmental matters needed tending, virus be damned, that they returned, only to find a plague of banners had been detected which was coursing wildly up and down the city’s very streets. The problem was deemed such a serious threat that meetings were held, emails were sent flying, tempers were ignited, and the full brunt of the city’s legal might was brought in to right the situation, and bring those damnable offending banners down. Posthaste.
“The sign definition indicates banners are a sign and signs are “used to announce, direct attention to, or otherwise make anything known…” Therefore, by definition, a special event banner is used “to announce, direct attention to, or otherwise make anything known” “in conjunction with a specific event.” The Main Street banner contains language that says “Believe in Brooksville” and “Brooksville Main Street.” The banner does not announce, direct attention to or make anything known in conjunction with a specific special event; “Believe in Brooksville” and “Brooksville Main Street” is not a specific special event. The banner therefore does not meet the requirements of LDC Section 7-1.4 and placement must be permitted as required by LDC Section 7-1.2.
Any individual or entity desiring to keep the banner (s) in question will need to submit a sign permit application with the applicable $75.00 permit fee. Concurrently, the code enforcement process regarding these signs will remain in progress.
Should you have any questions, please contact Community Development.
Mark A. Kutney, AICP, ICMA-CM
City of Brooksville”
Now, don’t get me wrong. Albeit as banal and unreasonable as one might think of its current ordinance (per the above), the city has every authority to set standards for displaying banners. Let’s be clear about that because the City Manager has sent an email to Council members suggesting our motives are ill intended. The BVF is not questioning the city’s authority in any way.
What is a little distressing, however, is: 1) The banners were associated with the “Scavenger Hunt.” Is that not an “event”? and, 2) there are other banners around town which have been up for a long time that are most likely not in compliance. So, why the sudden kerfuffle over the banners that some 41 businesses put up to show their pride and faith in the community? Does it look like selective code enforcement? Well, frankly, yes. And that’s our concern. Why are those 41 businesses now being targeted and not others? Or are those other banners somehow “in compliance”? And if they are, how so?
We believe it’s a fair question which should not trigger a fear that it’s some Machiavellian attempt to “challenge the authority of the City to address enforcement matters,” as the City Manager has suggested. Come on, Mark. We just want to find out what’s going on.
And having said all the above, maybe this would be a good time to sit down with the city and representatives from the business community and try to develop greater clarity within the code as to how and when banners may be displayed. From what I’ve seen of the emails, there’s hope all parties may be amenable to getting this needed little thing done.
But just why have we found ourselves in this perplexing situation anyway? Why are Main Street’s efforts to assist the business community seem so at odds at every turn with the very city we’re trying so hard to work with? This is something we as a community need to look more deeply into, don’t you think? With a thriving economy, businesses aren’t the only ones that benefit from a revitalized downtown. Assessed valuations will go up and there will be revenues available for the city to fix the many problems it is struggling to address today on behalf of its residents. A thriving economy will bring increased tax revenues for the city without the aggravation of higher tax rates. All boats are raised. Why aren’t we all working in that direction?
I just do not understand why all this has come down to such an ugly aggravation between the city and the 41 businesses that are so proudly displaying banners with the words “Believe in Brooksville” and “Brooksville Main Street.” Why would a city not see the goodness in the intentions of those who put those banners up; businesses who paid for those banners during some really tough economic times; businesses who are proud of Brooksville and want to believe with all their hearts that this is the place where they want to spend their evenings, make a living and raise their children. What does it say about those who refuse to appreciate just how wonderful it would be if their city could join in this little expression of exuberance in the face of these dangerous times and, instead of threatening fines, say,
“Now that’s a great idea! How can we help?”
… stay tuned
The Voice of Brooksville Main Street
Scavenger Hunt Comments – 2020
“We were looking for business we were more familiar with and a lot of them didn’t have the banner, so this was great to find new businesses. My new favorite is Panbanged Knits because I just learned to crochet and need lots of help! Thanks for organizing this, we had lots of fun!” – Bethany and Chris Seitz.
“I chose Easy Street Home Decor as my favorite place because I like all the unique items they sell. It is fun to walk around the shop to browse and a great place to buy that special something that you are looking for or that piece you just can’t live without.” – Suzy Marosi
“We are both new here to Brooksville and ABSOLUTELY love Brooksville. The pics are of my best friend and I. I have been here a year and originally going to move to Tampa after getting a job there. But after being introduced to Brooksville I love it here and now live and work here. This was a GREAT and fun hunt. Thanks to who ever thought of it!” – Virginia Carrillo
Virginia Carrillo took photos not in front of ONE place, but SEVERAL of her favorite places and told us why she loved them. Some of her comments read:
Teal Plank: “Want to try this spot out when it opens again for sure! looks FUN.”
Main Street Eatery: “LOVE to eat here! Great food.”
Thorpe Law Firm: “Never had to use will stay local if had to.”
LaRocca Chiropractic: “Great staff!”
Downtown Loser: “NEED to try them out for sure – heard GREAT reviews”
Patricia’s: “Love the windows!!!!!! Cute clothes”
The Bistro: “Best in TOWN to eat GREAT atmosphere!!!! Great decor inside and GREAT staff!”
Panbanged Knits: “Looks super cute spot to visit”
Easy Street Home Decor: “Super Chic place to find fun things, GREAT staff.”
“Kayla Bagley (me) and my 3 nieces spent the day going around our wonderful city to see all the shops, people, and rain or shine we made it to 25 places and were able to walk and sometimes drive around even to places we didn’t think to be there. The best place we love to go is to Transformed Treasures! The owner is very nice and always has candy and her dog is the cutest. We love finding things in there (we just bought a rotary phone for the girls) we never walk out empty handed!! We read the rules wrong and thought we had to take a photo in front of all the shops/places that had the banners and I thought, well we took the photos we might as well share the time we had taking them and showing off all the businesses! We wanted to share our great time we had together and reach the goal of the 25 locations or more. These girls and myself love this city since I’ve started living here in 2014 from Jacksonville and I got my nieces in 2018 when my sister passed. So things like this bring us together just be spending time with each other ! Thanks again for a great hunt!” – Kay Bailey
“I took a picture in front of The Bistro because it is my favorite restaurant. I love their flatbread pizza.” Lori Mostoufi
“After 2 hours of walking The Mermaid Trail (and more) my boys got over heated so we stopped for fries and a shake at Coney Island. From there we headed back to the car and pursued the last two signs by car but had no luck. After an hour of driving checking from Candlelight to the meat market to Tom Varn my one son got car sick so we headed home. Needless to say we are missing two signs (and about 10 mermaids) but we really enjoyed ourselves and plan to go back to Brooksville very soon. Our favorite stop was the Hernando Park. I had no idea it was there! My husband and I love tennis so we can’t wait to use the courts!” – Krystal Magnuson
“I love Teal Plank because it gives me a space to clear my mind and be my creative artistic self that I think I am.” – Jose Morales
“I love Patricia’s Boutique because of all of the pretty dresses that are displayed in the windows. I love driving by and looking at them. It’s always fun when they change. I make sure to take that way home just so I can look at them.” – Skye Breeann
“Panbanged Knits is a new business! Hurray for them!” – Marilyn Ryder
“We love Coney Island the most out of all the participants in the “Believe in Brooksville” scavenger hunt because WE LOVE FOOTLONGS! and their customer service is not too shabby either! Thank you for giving us a free, fun event to participate in. The kids had a blast!” – Marybeth Liebenberg, Brantly Homer and Anneli Liebenberg
“I’m so excited that we found 27!! It took several trips downtown for my son, Zechariah (11), and I to find them. But we had a blast looking! I took a selfie at The Bistro because We eat there frequently. I absolutely love the Bistro Cobb salad!”
“Although it is not historical as many of the buildings in Brooksville are, I do know that at one time Pro-Civil was a single-story auto parts store. It was remodeled in 1994 to its present condition. Again, I really did enjoy driving down all the different streets looking for these banners. I hope we can continue some of the many events I have enjoyed with the Main Street Program.” – Beth Garman
“On our girls day we decided to stop in to Transformed Treasures! We had never been inside before even though we have lived here for a few years. When we went inside the store on our antique adventure, we were in love! It has something for everyone! Beautiful pieces fill the store! My favorite thing though, had to be the bowl of toy soldiers that she has out. You may have one for free. She has a sign placed next to it that says please take one as a reminder to pray for our soldiers! I was almost brought to tears. It hit home. The owner is a very sweet lady who greeted us with a warm smile! This is now my favorite store in Brooksville, Florida!!” – Rachel Izor