By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
When Fernandez contacted the city building and zoning department in June, he learned that thirteen of the monstrosities were not permitted. Five of them, according to city records, are supposed to be mere signs on outside walls. City law requires such advertising pertain only to the businesses housed inside these buildings. In June Fernandez and inspector Charles Dianbois sent out citations to owners of the offending properties. “If you have a house in the City of Miami and you build an addition, you have to be able to show that you have a permit for it,” he says. “I'm using the same principle as that.” A month later he has yet to hear from any of them.
Eller spokesman Steve Alexander insists the signs have permits, some dating back to 1959. But his company is not going to share copies with the city. “They should be at the [city's] central office downtown,” Alexander adds. “I'm not sure what the problem is. I think it's a question of who [in the city] has got a full set of records.”
Fernandez's next move will be to summon Eller and property owners to appear before a City of Miami zoning hearing board. The officers could assess fines of up to $150 a day per billboard structure.
Important allies waging similar struggles all over the Sunshine State are eager to help Miami's newly mobilized zoning cadres. “I'd be very happy to extend an invitation to them to become members of our organization,” says William Jonson, president of a network of activists called Citizens for a Scenic Florida. From his home in Clearwater the 55-year-old retired Honeywell Space Systems project manager notes a long, difficult battle may lie ahead. Outdoor advertising firms are notorious for suing anybody who tries to hinder their right to create visual blight. “The [billboard companies] will throw everything and the kitchen sink at [their attackers] it,” Jonson says. He warns that issuance of citations is only the first stage of the war. “I would hope that city officials would ... take down the billboards that have been illegally erected,” he urges. “It's crucial."
You don't need a billboard to express yourself. Or a permit. Below is the 4-1-1 on the most egregious abusers of your eyeballs. So e-mail 'em already. Or call.
advertiser: Dunn and Associates, P.A.
contact: Robert Dunn, P.A.,
305-270-9116 or 1-800-CRIMINAL