Citizens for a Scenic
||April 22, 2011
Beauty is Threatened By Pending Legislation
bills are winding their way through the Florida house and
senate that would allow billboard companies to come onto
public lands and cut hundreds of Florida owned trees without
paying the current mitigation fees..
essence, the legislation would "forgive" millions of dollars
in fees and allow billboard companies to take public property
This is a
very fast moving situation and you can obtain the latest
information on www.ScenicBeauty.org.
all for dispatching so many emails in this fight to preserve
Florida’s roadside trees from billboard company destruction.
of your e-mails flooded into the Capital as a series of bills,
amendments, etc. have made their way through the house and
result of e-mails from concerned voters, our representatives
are starting to ask questions. For example, a Senate version
containing this legislation did pass, but "no" votes were cast
by Senator Dockery and Senator Storms as they decided to stand
up for the citizens of Florida.
continues with the language popping up in various bills, so
stay tuned and keep those e-mails flowing to
Jonson, President, Scenic Florida
NEWS - Read St. Petersburg Times Article About This Issue
Florida Times Union Article About This
Fun Festivals and
Riverfront Festival, Carrabelle
The Villiages Easter Weekend Craft
Festival, The Villages
Mandarin Art Festival,
Easter Egg Hunt, Key Largo
Suwannee River Jam, Live
April 28-May 1
Isle of Eight
Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina Beach
Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf
Coast's Greatest Beach Party, Perdido
Estuary Festival, Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State
April 29-May 1
Pensacola Crawfish Festival, Pensacola
Gamble Rogers Folk Festival, St.
Cinco de Mayo
Celebration, St. George Island
Spring Tour of Historic Homes,
Crab Festival, Panacea
Plant Collecting and
Pressing at Bok Sanctuary, Lake Wales
Taste of Collier, Naples
Smoke n' Blues, Bikes and BBQ, St.
Seafood Festival, Bright House Networks Boat Show and
Blues by the River, New Port Richey
Windsor Zucchini Festival,
Great Dock Canoe
Museum Day at Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca
April 22-May 1
Independence Celebration, Key West
Explore a Real Underground Cave,
Easter Egg Hunt, Key Largo
Key West Songwriters' Festival, Key
April 27-May 1
Las Olas Wine
and Food Festival, Fort Lauderdale
Annual Siesta Key Amateur Sand Sculpture
Contest, Siesta Key
in the Bay Dragon Boat Festival, Marathon
Arcadia Watermelon Festival,
Museum Day at Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca
Annual Love-In, North Miami Beach
|Note from the
for improvement are always welcome.
Florida Department of Transportation
above shows a billboard advertising the "We Bare
All!!!" business and is an example of the practice
of cutting trees legally and paying mitigation
fees to the state of Florida . According to the
Florida Times-Union, unlike the company in the
article below, THIS billboard company "...put up
this billboard legally in the Central Florida and
paid $31,000 in mitigation fees to remove trees
that obscured the view of it."
Florida Gave Away 2,094 State-Owned
Trees to Make Room for
Company did not pay mitigation fees
for removal, records show.
blessing of a current state senator, and the help
of a former state transportation secretary who is
now the Clay County manager, a billboard company
cut down more than 2,000 state-owned trees without
paying the state a dime, according to emails and
state records reviewed by the Times-Union.
roughly five-month span in 2009, Milton-based Bill
Salter Advertising received 105 permits to cut
down trees impeding the view of its billboards
across the Panhandle.
show that Salter sought help from then-Rep. Greg
Evers, R-Milton, and then-Transportation Secretary
Stephanie Kopelousos, who was hired in March by
"Companies typically pay the state
depending on the number and type of trees removed.
'We had some inconsistencies in our system,' said
John Garner, director of the Florida Department of
Transportation's Office of Right Of Way. 'I would
have expected to see some mitigation money on
those.' The Salter case caused the department to
undertake a round of training, Garner said, to
ensure that trees would no longer be removed
without appropriate payments being made.
allows the department to decide if a company must
submit a plan showing how it will replace trees
removed from a site and pay a fee to help cover
any remaining costs associated with removal, both
of which should have been done in Salter's case,
Garner said. No estimate on how much the axed state
assets were worth was ever compiled.
not the average, one sign company paid the state
$30,000 for a Central Florida billboard clearing
to advertise a topless bar.
It is the
responsibility of the permit holder - in this case
Salter - to get rid of the trees, in essence
handing over state property to a private
'On 1-8-09, I spoke with State
Representative Mr. Greg Evers and Secretary of
Transportation Ms. Stephanie Kopelousos about this
and they agreed and we were granted these
permits,' wrote Dave McCurdy, Salter's general
manager, in a May 2009 email to a state
contractor. He did not return calls to his cell
phone and emails seeking comment. His company got
105 permits in 2009, and one total in 2006, 2007,
2008 and 2010, records show. FDOT did not know why
there were so many in one year. Kopelousos was
appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007 to
head the transportation department. She says she
does not remember meeting with McCurdy or what her
exact role was in approving the permits. Evers,
now a state senator, said he was helping a
constituent. 'I always try to help my constituents
get a response from government if it is being
non-responsive to their needs,' said Evers, who
answered all questions through an email sent by a
spokeswoman. He has filed legislation changing
billboard permit requirements. Under the bill,
FDOT would no longer decide if a company has to
submit management plans or pay mitigation fees;
rather that would be voluntary.
number of permits granted over the five months in
2009 concerned department officials, emails show.
'When he says he's gotten over 100, I assume that
means over the years, right?' wrote Lynn Holschuh,
the FDOT's former outdoor and advertising and logo
administrator in a May email to Faye McBroom, who
oversaw permitting. Holschuh, who is no longer
with the FDOT, worked in the central office and
was not directly involved in approvals. She has a
hunch why the 105 permits were approved. 'With the
whole outdoor advertising business, politics is
involved,' she said during a Monday interview.
It's a contention Kopelousos disagrees with
because federal regulations are also in play.
failure to collect money isn't the lone oddity
related to Salter's permits. Each of the 105
Salter permits were for billboards in the western
portion of the Panhandle. That area includes two
FDOT operations centers in Milton and Ponce de
Leon , which process the permits. Roughly 60 of
Salter's permits were for areas covered by Ponce
de Leon but were processed in Milton, where Evers
lives and Salter is located. Officials in Ponce de
Leon, who were apparently kept in the dark, had
several questions when made aware. 'Were they
supposed to remove stumps? What about long-term
maintenance of these areas? Is it to be mowed? Let
it grow back? From what I have seen the permit
does not speak to any of this,' wrote Stan
Swiatek, head of the Ponce de Leon operations
center in a May 2009 email to McBroom. Swiatek is
no longer with the department and declined to
pending legislation (SB 1570) would make paying
fees or plans voluntary. The bill 'requires them
to pay nothing for the destruction of state
trees,' said Rip Caleen, a board member with
Citizens for a Scenic Florida during Senate
testimony on the bill. Evers said the bill
alleviates red tape. 'The entire billboard
industry brought this language to me,' he wrote.
'We are regulating people in Florida out of
business.' He said Salter was 'uninvolved in, and
even unaware of, the language.' "
Dixon, The Florida Times Union
Miami Officials Delay
Billboard Vote Worth
Miami commissioners, fighting back
pressure from Tallahassee, delayed a vote to
settle a billboard agreement to try for friendlier
"Saying they were standing on 'principle',
Miami commissioners delayed a vote Thursday on a
billboard deal that could bring the city more than
$4 million a year.
Commissioners had been expected to decide
on a settlement agreement with South Florida
Equitable Fund, an Orlando-based billboard
company, that could have fattened the city’s
shrinking pocketbook. But instead, commissioners
chose to ignore a potentially costly May 6
deadline and pushed back a vote on the settlement
until May 12 at the earliest.
reason behind the decision: Commissioners said
they are tired of being pushed around by a
political insider with heavy sway in Tallahassee
who has worked to insert a tiny but potent
provision into a massive state transportation bill
in the Florida House of Representatives.
the way I want to set policy,' said Commissioner
Frank Carollo. 'I don’t see the benefit to the
city of Miami.'
fracas with Tallahassee — which spurred a
seven-hour debate in City Hall Thursday that was
often filled with head-splitting minutia —
centered on a provision in the transportation bill
placed there with the support of South Florida
Equitable managing partner Harkley Thornton.
Thornton used to head a political committee linked
to House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and
is a former governing board member of the South
Florida Water Management District, appointed by
former Gov. Jeb Bush.
provision sets a cap on annual permit fees for any
outdoor advertising at $500, effectively gutting a
billboard ordinance the city spent two years
putting together that was expected to garner in
excess of $4 million annually. The bill, which is
on its way to the House floor, does not yet have
an exact companion in the Senate.
meeting last week, several commissioners said they
were told by Thornton or his partner, Santiago
Echemendia that if the city settled with South
Florida Equitable before the legislative session
ends May 6, the provision would be removed.
Commissioners, wary of being squeezed and fearing
another tough budget session, called for a special
meeting Thursday to vote on the settlement.
Thursday, after several hours of persuasive
arguments from Carollo, they unexpectedly sided
with the commissioner, who pushed to not only
delay a vote until May 12 — well after the
legislative session ends — but also to amend the
settlement to make it more favorable to the city.
Commissioner Francis Suarez said the best
way to avoid the 'cloud hanging over us' was to
delay finalizing the agreement until after the
Legislature finishes its annual session on May 6.
Still, he warned, “the [House] speaker usually
gets his way..."
Rabin and Patricia Mazzei, The Miami Herald
Rapid City Update:
City Denies New Billboard Permits After
Successful Petition Drive Puts TWO Billboard
Control Initiatives on Ballot for June
Assessment In Progress
The William Bertram
Scenic and Historic
William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway
(WBSH Highway) Corridor Management Council (CMC)
and St. Johns County, with technical assistance
from AECOM Design + Planning, is undertaking a
visual quality assessment for the 17.3 mile
Florida Scenic Highway.
been established that high quality, natural
appearing scenery and landscapes enhance people’s
lives and benefit society while creating a sense
of place and well being. To that effect, a
viewshed analysis is being conducted that
evaluates scenic quality in a comprehensive and
objective manner in order to preserve the existing
visual character of the scenic highway and
identify critical viewsheds. "
More at William Bartram Scenic & Historic
Highway Corridor Management Council