Billboard Law Not Signed Yet by Governor

Jeb Bush must decide within the next couple of days whether to sign a bill that would create 350-foot “view zones” for billboards.

The bill could mean trees and other local beautification projects would have to be torn out to provide a clear view of the advertisement. Environmentalists say the bill sends the wrong message.

If you were driving down the road, you might have a tough time seeing the famous gecko on the billboard because of the tree in front. A bill awaiting the governor’s signature mandates a 350-foot view zone along downtown streets so vegetation can’t block a billboard. Billboards along an interstate would rate a 500-foot view zone.

Eric Draper with the Audubon Society is horrified.

“We’ve got these beautiful trees in Florida, and we’re allowing billboards to become a preferred use of the landscape over trees. Trees are important for our wildlife and our water supply and the air that we breathe. We should not make billboards more important than trees.”

But the controversy also involves private property rights. Billboards’ owners have a legal right to ensure motorists are able to clearly read the sign.

Jeb Bush says he’s been told the bill just puts in law what’s already an existing practice. He doesn’t think it will mean local communities will have to rip out a bunch of trees.

“I had some concerns about it based on some e-mails I had and read in the paper expressions of concern in the articles. The briefing I had paints somewhat of a different picture.”

Draper argues it’s not right for the state to side with business over communities.

“That’s what this bill is about. It’s about telling people in their own neighborhoods that they can’t control how these neighborhoods look.”

City and county officials are also concerned about the billboard bill, which would fine communities that don’t remove offending trees and vegetation within a certain amount of time. Jeb Bush must decide whether to sign or veto the bill by June 20, next Tuesday.