Sign of the times: DeLand business owner fights to keep up flashy sign

Wholesale Computer Outlet display has been up for 17 years; city says it violates code

DeLAND, Fla. – It’s a sign of the times that DeLand city leaders are calling the 17-year-old flashy display of nine TVs in the window of Wholesale Computer Outlet distracting.

On Thursday, business owner John Martineau met with a magistrate to see if he could keep his sign but didn’t get the outcome he was looking for.

“It’s a direct relationship to what I do for a living. It would be like me telling the T-shirt shop next door you can’t have t-shirts in your window,” Martineau said.

But, that's exactly what Martineau said the city is telling him. The store owner showed News 6 his notice of violation that states stores in the Historic District can't have neon signs or a display that moves or revolves.

“Because there are fluid movements and the screen changes it makes it illegal because it’s a distraction,” Martineau said.

Martineau said his TVs have never been an issue until recently. He’s created a petition to upgrade the code of ordinances to include technology that he presented to a magistrate, in hopes of avoiding an up to $250 fine, however, the special magistrate sided with the city and found Martineau’s signs in violation of the current code.

"If you want all the stores to disappear, this is how you do it," he said.

“We’re an award-winning downtown here and we’re trying to maintain the integrity, the aesthetics of our downtown, so that’s what it really comes down to,” said Chris Graham, City Spokesperson.

Graham said commissioners are following decades-old codes but said they’re sympathetic to business owners and plan to take a second look.

“We’re going to look at our ordinances and see if there are any changes that we can make to make it easier for our businesses to exist in our downtown and in our city,” Graham said.

Martineau said he’ll continue to fight to keep his sign. He has to ask the city commission to change the code.

“Very few people are like, 'downtown DeLand is going to look like Vegas’ and that’s not my intention. I don’t feel that this is objectionable to anybody around.,” he said.

Martineau has until March 26 to remove the window display or face fines of $250 a day.

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