Opinion: Fitness Center's Yard Sign Tack Stinks

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)


This time of year, you can't avoid all the lawn signs that have sprouted along thoroughfares in Chesapeake. They dot plenty of grassy frontage, and hawk everything from political office-seekers to open houses to the upcoming Chesapeake Wine Festival.

Candidates' signs should come down, mercifully, after Nov. 7. (I even saw Mayor Alan Krasnoff, who's running for the more-lucrative post of clerk of the circuit court, erecting some large placards with his supporters in Great Bridge on Wednesday.)

One local businessman, though, has thumbed his nose at local regulations covering where the signs can be placed. Ryan Mosher, owner of two Your Time Fitness locations in Chesapeake, displays a businesslike, calculating approach by throwing them up everywhere — and gladly paying any resulting fines.

That tack stinks.

The Pilot's Katherine Hafner reported he has paid more than $2,000 in fines. Volunteers with a city program have taken down 1,400 of his signs since 2014, including more than 700 last year.

The city of Chesapeake has gone to court to try to stop Mosher from planting the advertisements on city property. The Circuit Court issued an injunction — a civil directive — against the business. He's been held in contempt of court three times, too. Between the civil penalties and violations of the injunction, he's been fined more than $3,000.

The recalcitrance surprises Jan Proctor, the city attorney. "It is unusual, in my experience, for a business to violate an injunction and be held in contempt three times," she told me through a spokesman.

That's legalese for: Enough already!

I drove through Great Bridge and Greenbrier early Wednesday and saw at least two of the store's signs. It wasn't immediately clear whether they were on public rights of way, though.

You would think Mosher's gym is the only place to go in Chesapeake, or that every resident wants to join a fitness center. That's simply not true.

I left voicemail and email messages for Mosher. He hadn't returned them by mid-afternoon Wednesday.

The gym owner has previously told The Pilot the fines are just the cost of doing business, and he tries to post his signs in shopping center parking lots. Mosher told my colleague that, since the court proceedings began, he has tried to stay off city rights of way.

Officials from nearby cities said no local business owner has approached the plethora of pitches that Mosher has installed.

Julie Hill, a Virginia Beach spokeswoman, told me Wednesday the city has been fortunate. "We've had very few repeat offenders," she said. A Portsmouth spokeswoman said something similar.

Imagine: What would it look like if each shopkeeper inundated the streets of Chesapeake the way Mosher has? That would mean every barber and beautician, every print shop and restaurant, would place hundreds of these signs up around the city. Such an approach becomes unsightly and annoying.

Volunteers with the Sign Sweeper program can only do so much at playing "whack a mole," too. It's clear Mosher factored that into his calculations.

The city has said it's found fewer illegal signs for Mosher's fitness centers recently. Maybe the message is getting through.

If not, officials should exercise the city's muscle and hike the cost of doing business. Don't encourage these endless eyesores on public property.

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October 12, 2017


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