Nearly year after county, Miami OKs building mural limits
By Risa Polansky
Miami is no longer to be a "wild, wild west" for outdoor advertising, commissioners say.
More than one has used the term to describe the city when it comes to murals, the massive advertisements covering the sides of buildings in the urban core.
They voted last week, after nearly a year of inaction and debate, to regulate the signs, mandating that only 35 receive permits and that those without permits pay pricey daily fines —pricey enough, they hope, to force them down.
The city has until now fined $250 a day for illegal murals — and all hanging are illegal until the new law takes effect and permits are doled out through a lottery system.
Fines are to jump to $1,000 a day on top of the $1,000 Miami-Dade County is already collecting.
"It's very cost prohibitive for them," said Pieter Bockweg, assistant to the senior director of building, planning and zoning in the city manger's office.
A separate item altering code enforcement provisions to provide for the fining system is to come before commissioners March 27, he said.
The county currently levies the $1,000 daily fine, though county attorneys did warn state law could limit such a level of fine.
The murals ordinance — which requires a second reading and final approval by commissioners, to occur April 10 — allows for 35 permitted murals in the city's urban core, no more than 20 in one commission district.
Last May, Miami-Dade County set the foundation for legal murals, allowing 45 but leaving it up to the city to impose further restrictions and instate a permitting process.
The new city law is the result of months of back-and-forth between commissioners and administrators.
After presenting his own murals proposal calling for only 15 permitted signs, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff joined city staffers and industry players to create the compromise passed last week.
A permittee is to pay $1 per square foot of each mural, no less than $48,000 a year and no more than $120,000 a year.
The city is to charge $10,500 in qualification fees just to enter the lottery for a permit, though $10,000 is to be refunded if the applicant doesn't qualify for entry.
If the desired mural site has displayed a mural within the past five years, the permit applicant must pay three times the qualification fee to enter the lottery.
Of that, $10,000 would be refunded if the permit isn't approved.
All illegal murals must be taken down 45 days before applying to the permit lottery.
"At least you'll get a peek at the city as to what she looks like undressed," Mr. Sarnoff said.
Any citation for illegal murals anywhere in the county would result in losing all city permits, the ordinance stipulates.
Attorney Lucia Dougherty, on behalf of "several members of the industry," thanked the commission for the compromised ordinance but did note it means the city will be charging the highest fees in the country.