By Anne Geggis

A special magistrate is expected to rule Feb. 20 on whether Ocean Ridge’s new beach sign ordinance is too vague for enforcement due to the beach’s shifting sands.

Also at issue: Does a sign printed on both sides amount to two signs or just one?

Public anger over “No Trespassing” signs erected on the beach by the Turtle Beach of Ocean Ridge Condominium Association led town commissioners in September to adopt regulations limiting beach signage. The new ordinance specifies how large the signs can be (they can’t exceed 18 inches by 18 inches), how they can be placed, and that they face “either to the east or to the west.”

Even with that specificity, Turtle Beach and the town still aren’t seeing eye to eye, with the town saying the association’s new signs are not in compliance.

A 90-minute hearing on the case Jan. 9 in front of a special magistrate did not produce an outcome. Special Magistrate Amity Barnard asked both the town attorney and the Turtle Beach representative to draft memos of no more than three pages to make their arguments on the state of Turtle Beach’s compliance with the ordinance.

The town says that two-sided signs, like the two now in place at Turtle Beach, amount to four signs, violating the two-sign limit. The association disagrees. And, the town says, the placement was not as described in the ordinance approved in September.

The ordinance says that signs are not allowed to be placed on the beach seaward of the toe of the frontal dune, which is the first natural or manmade mound or bluff of sand located “landward of the beach” that has significant vegetation, height, continuity or configuration that offers protective value.

“The signs as of today are still double-sided and they still are at an approximate amount of feet from the frontal toe,” said Officer Aaron Choban of the Ocean Ridge police.

But the association says that there’s no telling exactly where seaward of the front toe is from day to day.

Turtle Beach association President Mark Feinstein said he had numerous “pleasant” conversations with town officials and thought an agreement had been reached. The dune goes in and out — it’s not linear, he said.

“After I got the notice of violation, I was actually shocked and surprised,” said Feinstein, who is a lawyer and also had one representing him at the hearing. “… I certainly think that the ordinance is, at best, vague.”

The special magistrate could levy a fine up to $250 a day after a finding if the property is not brought into compliance. If the violation is found to be irreparable or irreversible, the special magistrate could impose a fine up to $5,000.

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