Tanner Andrews mug

Tanner Andrews

Amazing! It has been more than a decade since I last wrote about the City of DeLand and its desire to eliminate old-fashioned business signs. During that time, attrition and hurricanes have acted to eliminate most of the remaining problem signs. Unfortunately, no such luck with the “temporary” billboard out on U.S. Highway 92 that the commission approved in 2008.

A business that has been here 10 or 20 years is probably doing something right. The remaining problem signs have been here longer than that, however.

The sign on the Mitchell Cleaners building has been there over several decades; during that time, it has injured no one. And the sign over Won Lee’s is practically a landmark.

I said the signs have injured no one. I should call out the exception: The fragile egos of city bureaucrats have been bruised. Not from road accidents, just hurt feelings because not everyone shares their superior level of good taste.

Normally, I tend to think of these signs as grandfathered. That is, Grandpa was doing it before the new ordinance, we have continued the tradition, and we should be allowed to continue. If you want to stop us, you can buy us out.

City bureaucrats have a different view. If they do not like the color of your paint or the shape of your sign, then you have to buy them out. It could be cheap: One building official used to be flexible for the price of a new printer for his home computer.

Or, you could just humor them, pretending the new Marriott is not as ugly as it looks. Unfortunately, that is what you get when you let bureaucrats decide matters of personal taste.

Unfortunately, city commissioners get more input from bureaucrats than from property owners. The results show. The signs at the cleaners and the Chinese restaurant look OK, but have to come down.

There is one bright spot in this. DeLand’s “queen of color” is no longer here, dictating the shade of paint for your eaves.

And maybe we can amend the city charter, allowing thecommissioners to find and sack the other bureaucrats in charge of tasteful color and signage.

Legislating taste rarely works well. Frankly, neither do some city officials. That is why we should all be thinking how grateful we are that these officials are not regulating beverages — otherwise we would all be drinking eggplant-flavored Budweiser.

— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.