Clear Channel billboard deal could fall through due to possible code conflict on flashing LED signs
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Miami is trying to let billboard giant Clear Channel set up three programmable electronic signs in exchange for the company's removal of 13 billboards throughout the city, but a possible code conflict could axe the deal.
City Manager Pete Hernandez said that billboards are becoming more intrusive and the settlement hopes to rid the city of 13 structures throughout the city.
"The LED signs are an improvement over a regular billboard," he said.
As part of a settlement agreement between the city and Clear Channel Outdoor, the company plans to place LED signs that show electronic message displays at 818 SW Fourth Ave., 936 NW Third Ave. and 1413 NW First Place.
But Eston "Dusty" Melton, a former sign company lobbyist, told commissioners last week that county code, amended in 1994 to add 10 requirements for programmable signs, doesn't allow for the type of flashing signs that can change messages every couple of seconds.
Mr. Melton's point prompted the commission last week to defer the item for the legal department to review whether the city's placement of programmable signs is illegal.
The city must follow the county's sign code under the Home Rule Charter, which allows the city's rules to be more restrictive than the county's but not more permissive.
Assistant City Attorney Warren Bittner clarified that by law the sign company must comply with federal, state and local ordinances regarding illumination.
But that's not the only hurdle the settlement faces.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff was concerned with the city only requesting a $15,000 payment per year per sign.
"To me, this is laughable compared to what LED signs provide in revenues. That should be $75,000," he said at the commission meeting.
To check the fees charged by other cities, Miami contacted San Antonio, which has a pilot program with Clear Channel for 13 LED signs, and found the city is receiving $12,000 per sign, said Pieter Bockweg, assistant director of building, planning and zoning.
City Manager Hernandez said he tried to negotiate a heftier $25,000 with Clear Channel executives, but he said their response was that "they could not do it."
Mr. Sarnoff also requested a greater minimum distance between LED signs, asking to raise it from 600 feet to 1,000, whether on the same or different sides of the roadway. This condition is to be considered when the deal returns to the commission.
For the city's settlement allowing programmable signs to move forward, an ordinance setting illumination regulations for outdoor advertising signs was also on the agenda for review.
But the commission deferred that as well until it clears up any potential conflicts with the county's sign code.
Both the Clear Channel settlement and the illumination ordinance are to return to the commission June 25.