Miami Dade County Community Forum

Friday, August 6, 2010

Towering hurdles await giant billboards in Miami - The Miami Herald

Excerpt from the Miami HErald regarding the new media towers:

"Even after city commissioners approved giant advertising billboards that would change the downtown skyline forever, more complications must be overcome before construction can begin.

The towering electronic billboards that Miami city commissioners approved last week are so unprecedented, the city had to write a new law just to get them approved.

And that's probably just the start of a process that, in itself, might prove unprecedented. Miami-Dade County, the state and the federal government are all studying whether the skycraping media towers fall under their jurisdiction.

Before developer Mark Siffin gets final clearance from the city, Miami officials say, city planners must revisit the issue, and the county and state need to green-light the project. The county said it is waiting on the plans before weighing in.

And the state? Florida says the scope of the plan probably defies the federal Highway Beautification Act, a half-century-old law created to remove clutter from the nation's largest transportation corridors.

Yet Siffin's attorney is confident that last week's commission vote cemented his client's plan to begin construction within 18 months, and that no other permits are needed.

The differing perspectives are not entirely surprising.

Never before has Miami, the county or state had to grapple with procedures involving the creation of triangular signs that soar 496 feet, filled with hundreds of thousands of light-emitting diodes, sitting atop a parking garage surrounded by retail stores and condominiums.

Siffin crafted a plan that could change the face of Miami and permanently alter its skyline. His City Square includes giant light-emitting towers as tall as any of downtown's condos, on top of an 11-story garage with outdoor cafes at ground level, next to retail centers and restaurants in parking lots now owned by The Miami Herald.

The complex would be built adjacent to, and east of, the historic Boulevard Shops and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts at Northeast 14th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.

There is confusion over whether the cloud-touching towers are murals or billboards -- which, in turn, would affect the approval process required.

``These will definitely not fall under the law I created,'' said Miami's Pieter Bockweg, who helped craft the city's mural ordinance.

There's even confusion about what Siffin is building. In Miami, his attorney Jeffrey Bercow has represented the advertising signs as media towers, which required new legislation. To state officials, Bercow calls them murals, which require little or no oversight.

Lobbyist Eston ``Dusty'' Melton, who helped craft the county's billboard ordinance more than two decades ago, said county law does not permit billboards atop standing structures."

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