Frequent requests for temporary signs by business owners in Cornerstone Commerce Center have caused frustration for both city officials and retailers as a sign agreement awaits full approval by the developer and city.

An amended sign agreement has been in limbo since 2011. The city and developer and owner Robin Karman both say they’re waiting for the other to move forward.

Karman said the sign would improve visibility for tenants of the center on New Road by adding backlights and an LED board.

“There is almost 1,000 feet of frontage there,” which is not being fully used for a sign that can attract business to the center, she said, adding that the LED sign would act as both advertising and a community billboard.

Councilman Tim Tighe, who is also on the city’s Planning Board, said he received an email from the city’s attorney with the finalized agreement in the first week of August, and that all it needs is a signature from Karman.

When asked about the August email, Karman said she does not know of any email and the last she heard of anything to do with the agreement was when discussions began in mid-2011.

Businesses are feeling the effects and are asking City Council for relief in the form of temporary signs. Council members recently discussed a request from Tranquility Spa to advertise holiday specials on a temporary sign. The request, the spa’s fifth since opening a year ago, was denied. Three others have been approved in the past.

“Linwood thinks banners and temporary signs look trashy,” Tighe said in a phone interview Friday.

Spa owner Yanling Li said the sign situation isn’t helping her business.

“Some people don’t know we are here,” she said. “It’s a big holiday, and it’s more economical to put up the sign rather than buy advertising.”

Li said the amount of traffic to the spa increases significantly with the help of a temporary sign, but the city’s sign ordinance strictly prohibits temporary and banner signs unless approved by council. She said the proposed new sign would be better than the small, unlit sign that exists now.

Another tenant, Leung Show, owner of Empress Chinese Restaurant, said the signs are too small and cannot be seen by travelers along Route 9. He, too, had been approved for a temporary sign at the opening of his business. But he was asked to remove it 30 days later.

“I’m here on the side of the building. No one knows I’m here because the sign is too small,” Show said.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Ralph Paolone along voted to allow Tranquility Spa’s temporary sign, saying businesses need all the help they can get.

“When I first saw the request even I thought ‘Oh God not again,’ but I want to support the businesses and help them succeed, because it helps our tax revenue” in return, Paolone said.

Tighe replied that the commerce center was doing well, according to information received that day, with a 98 percent occupancy rate. In addition, he said, it was unfair to grant the business special permission for a sign.

Mayor Richard DePamphilis, III said if one business is approved continually, it would encourage others to start asking — not just in Cornerstone but elsewhere in the city.

Tighe said the last request came in September, which was denied, and at that time Council had decided not to allow any more temporary signs, with the exceptions of ShoreFest and other such benefits.

Council President Donna Taylor agreed, adding that a letter was sent to inform the business that temporary signs would not be allowed again. Councilman Todd Gordon said it was reaching the point of abusing the concept of a temporary sign

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:

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