Miami: America's Billboard Sanctuary

Will city commissioners embrace outdoor advertising, or will they heartlessly shun a vital industry?

Vilarello said he would be more concerned about possible violations of the state's Government in the Sunshine Law. Under the Sunshine Law it would have been illegal for any two members of the Outdoor Advertising Review Board to discuss business related to that board in private or through a third party. Mumford denied discussing the board's business with the other half of Mumford & Hancock. She said the two didn't disclose their business partnership because they didn't want anyone to steal the idea. "We didn't think anyone else was doing this down here," she remarked. Fellow board member Steve Alexander declined to comment on whether he thought their failure to disclose the information was unethical. Commissioner Gort also had no qualms about Mumford and Hancock's secret. "I think they could have disclosed it," Gort observed, "but I don't see any conflict [of interest]."

Against that backdrop of business intrigue, the review board is boldly pressing ahead with its industry input. For example it will recommend that the commission eliminate a rule prohibiting billboards closer than 200 feet from an expressway (though many are). The Planning and Zoning Department opposes the idea. Another board recommendation is to increase the permitted size of billboards from 750 square feet to 960 square feet. Planning and zoning also opposes that change and instead recommends that signs along highways be no larger than 672 square feet; those along narrower roads and streets should be even smaller. Also thwarted: the board's proposal to allow billboards to rise higher than 30 feet.

There are a few areas of agreement, however. The board and city staff have agreed that billboards along expressways should be at least 1500 feet apart, as currently required by state law. And they concurred on a new spacing requirement of 1000 feet for signs along other roads and streets, for which there is no spacing requirement at present.

Andy Hancock (second from left) and Bobbie Mumford (far right) want the Miami commission to allow more billboards so they can make more money
Steve Satterwhite
Andy Hancock (second from left) and Bobbie Mumford (far right) want the Miami commission to allow more billboards so they can make more money
Andy Hancock (second from left) and Bobbie Mumford (far right) want the Miami commission to allow more billboards so they can make more money
Steve Satterwhite
Andy Hancock (second from left) and Bobbie Mumford (far right) want the Miami commission to allow more billboards so they can make more money
Andy Hancock (second from left) and Bobbie Mumford (far right) want the Miami commission to allow more billboards so they can make more money
Steve Satterwhite
Andy Hancock (second from left) and Bobbie Mumford (far right) want the Miami commission to allow more billboards so they can make more money

A year has now passed since the city manager instructed Neighborhood Enhancement Team offices to inventory illegal billboards in their areas. After giving billboard scofflaws their own committee -- and bringing the code-enforcement process to a halt -- Miami commissioners are now talking tough. A majority have said they plan to vote against the review board's recommendations in favor of the Planning and Zoning Department's. Last week Commissioner Gort told New Times he thought the city should force the removal of illegal signs "as soon as possible." For his part Commissioner Joe Sanchez proclaimed that if any illegal billboards are found in his district, "I will direct that they be taken down."

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