Neptune Beach Denies Sign Variance For New Restaurant

Owner said sign allowed would not be visible

The owner of a new restaurant franchise planning to open in the Seminole Shops shopping center next to Publix has been denied a sign that is larger than allowed by the city’s sign ordinance.

The business is Cousins Maine Lobster. It will be located in the strip of storefronts to the west of Publix, which is set well back from Atlantic Boulevard. The franchise owner, Julianne Lilly, requested a sign that is about 23 square feet to be attached to the building, but the code does not allow a sign that is more than 17.6 square feet. Lilly said that the primary reason the sign is so large is that the franchisor requires a large lobster be part of the sign. She also said that the sign would not be visible from Atlantic Boulevard, which would make it more difficult for her to attract business. She also said that Regency Centers, which owns the shopping plaza, had denied her request to have the business advertised on the monument sign along Atlantic.

The Community Development Board voted 7-0 to deny the sign variance. When it came before the council, Councilor Rory Diamond initially moved that the variance be approved, but it failed when no one would second the motion. Vice Mayor Scott Wiley then moved to deny the variance so that the council could discuss the issue.

Vice Mayor Wiley said it would be difficult for the council to make an exception for this one business. “It’s setting a precedent for what’s remaining in that center, and also some of the other centers where we’ve held firm on the display on the buildings,” Wiley said.

Mayor Elaine Brown agreed that the city should not allow the variance, but offered some encouragement to the business owner. “You’re going to be discovered, trust me. But we are not going to, in my opinion, make an exception for someone that opens the door for others. That’s why we have the code. And I’d love to see you and work with you to see if we can’t make sure you can get a sign up there that will do well. We’ll work with you on anything that you’re going to be doing in the future for another sign. It’s a terrible thing to say ‘welcome to Neptune Beach’, but this sign is non-conforming.”

Brown said that it was unlikely that any sign on the front of the building could be seen from Atlantic Boulevard. The council voted to deny the variance 4-1, with only councilor Diamond voting “no”.

Council Agenda Information

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