Further editorial update: Draft sign ordinance (Ordinance 5288) introduced at November 12 Council meeting. Click here for details. Passed by Council at the November 25 meeting.

Editorial update: at October 27th’s City Council Workshop Councilmen Weinroth & Singer addressed the overabundance of signs. Driving around today, October 28, we already notice a reduced number of signs. Keep up the good work!

October 25, 2014

Political Signs 

Since the year 2008, I have requested an updating and reevaluation of the Boca Sign Code that addresses the problem of sign pollution on Boca’s highways and byways. The current political season has brought sign pollution in Boca to a new high or should I say low? 

After researching the City Code, I found that political candidates who wish to put up more than 10 signs post a refundable $100 bond for a “Temporary Permit for Political Signage within the City Limits of Boca Raton up to 90 days before an election”. They are notified on their applications that the state of Florida has provisions in Chapter 479 of its Statutes, which address political signage on State and County roadways in the city of Boca Raton. However, the City of Boca Raton does not enforce the Florida Statute. 

Newly elected Councilman Robert Weinroth stated in the Sun Sentinel on March 14, 2014 “that legally speaking, political signs can’t be put up on the center medians of the city, but there is no enforcement of any violations.” The bottom line is that political candidates are free to erect an unlimited number of campaign signs throughout the city. 

Sign pollution continues unabated, in part, because the city’s sign criteria were last updated in 1993 and there are few Rules and Regulations today that address the number of signs that can put up and the locations where signs are prohibited. This includes private, public and commercial properties. 

Sign pollution has increased every year due to the fact that our city government has been unwilling to control it. This became patently clear during the current Gubernatorial, Congressional and other Midterm elections scheduled for Tuesday November 4th. Since there are twelve or more candidates running for office, they have saturated our roadways and buildings with hundreds of campaign signs to a degree that have never been experienced before. 

Real Estate Signs 

Political sign pollution is seasonal; however, realtor sign pollution is with us year round. Real estate sign pollution began six and one half years ago when South Florida suffered from a severe recession that resulted in a sharp decline in the real estate market and a downturn in population growth. Local Realtors were granted a temporary exemption to a ruling in the Boca Sign Code that states, “Real Estate Signs will not be permanently installed and displayed for long periods of time”.

Jim Batmasian, CEO of Investments Limited, arguably the most powerful Realtor and largest property owner in the city, took immediate advantage of this temporary exemption and quickly installed a multitude of permanent advertising billboards on his many properties throughout the city that remain to this day. 

Real estate signs and billboards were intended to be “installed and displayed “on a temporary basis only. However, they have become a permanent feature throughout our city. Realtors install large billboards in the front of the many properties that they own or represent. The major purpose of these signs is to promote and advertise their real estate agencies. The pretext for the signs is the need to lease unoccupied office space and retail space. Realtor billboards have caused considerable harm to the environment of Boca Raton, and the time has clearly come for them to be removed.

Conculusions 

The time has come for the City Council to formulate a three point plan of action that should be implemented as soon as possible:

(1)   The Provisions in the Statutes of the State of Florida, concerning the placement and usage of political and other kinds of signs on State and County Roadways should be enforced immediately. 

(2)   Boca Raton should adopt the successful signage regulations of Coral Springs. To be specific, the Coral Springs ordinance states that , “No election sign shall be allowed to be located on a roadway median. No more than one election sign per candidate shall be allowed to be located on private properties and political signs are restricted to certain designated areas on public properties.” 

(3)   Both Florida Statutes and a stringent new Boca Sign Code must be enforced with sufficient fines for violations to effectively deter violations. 

Boca Raton has spent thousands of dollars on their beautification of its roadway. Failure to update the sign code and failure to enforce both local and state sign ordinances rob us of the benefits of Boca’s beautification efforts.