Everywhere a Sign

When it comes to constructing roadside billboards, the City of Miami is a regular free-for-all

Hancock has requested a hearing, which has yet to take place. And he may have a strong defense, because the City of Miami issued permits for both. "The Florida DOT wanted to take them down," comments Hancock's office manager Christine, who did not want to disclose her last name. "I guess they feel like they're more powerful than the city," she adds with a giggle. "On the other hand, we got City of Miami permits. I'm looking at them right now."

The state also is investigating at least four other questionable billboards east of I-95, including two in Wynwood that are spaced only about 50 feet apart. They tower over a shotgun shack at 570 NW 22nd St. occupied by 65-year-old Joe Jackson, Jr., and his wife, Ella Mae. When Jackson looks up from his yard he sees, instead of wafting clouds, a picture of several colossal rolls of carpeting. Nearby an enormous halo hovers near Yupi.com's minimalist logo. Neither of the monstrosities bothers him. One reason could be that his landlord is none other than Rex Hodges, one of the owners of Carter Outdoor Advertising. Hodges also occasionally pays Jackson ten or fifteen dollars to clean up around the billboards.

While New Timeswas inspecting the 22nd Street lot recently, a shiny green Mitsubishi Montero pulled around the corner and parked. Its driver, a mustachioed man who would identify himself only as Jack, acknowledged he works for Carter Outdoor Advertising. He bristled when New Times asked whether his company had secured city and state permits. "Do you think you could put up something this big without a permit? Use some common sense.... You can't put a door in a house without a permit," he gripes. "Let this grass grow more than two inches and the city gives you a fine. You can't do nothing in this city without meeting the requirements of the city, county, and state."

Heaven sent: Joe Jackson says the mammoth installations in his back yard are no problem
Steve Satterwhite
Heaven sent: Joe Jackson says the mammoth installations in his back yard are no problem

Although the billboard ordinances haven't changed since 1985, there has been an enormous transformation of Miami-Dade. Aesthetically minded commissioners like Beverly Phillips have all but disappeared. She wonders where all the anti-billboard soldiers have gone. "Are there enough citizens groups around to fight this kind of thing anymore? Used to be we had a lot of groups out there. But they've all fallen apart," she laments. "You get to the point where you can't do anything about this, so you stop worrying about it and go on and do other things. I'm going to Greece next week." Who knows? As gridlock grows, maybe today's expressway travelers will want even more Brobdingnagian babes to block that boring sky.

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