Wednesday afternoon, a Miami-Dade County committee is voting on whether to allow the City of Miami to erect massive electronic billboards along major roads, including I-95, I-395, and the Dolphin Expressway. The committee will consider an amendment brought by District 5 commissioner Bruno Barreiro, which will let Miami and other municipalities opt out of a county sign ordinance that for decades has closely regulated the number and kind of billboards along expressways.
Update: The committee voted to defer the matter until their next meeting, on July 13. See comments section for more.
The electronic billboards — which boast brilliant LED displays and cycle through multiple digital advertisements — bring in huge revenue. Developer Mark Siffin, who wants to erect two 50-story electronic billboards downtown, six blocks west of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, estimated the value of the “media towers” at $100 million.
With so much money up for grabs, it is no surprise that developers and outdoor advertising giants like Clear Channel, which recently won city approval to erect 14 electronic billboards, are drooling at the chance to flood Miami neighborhoods with the lucrative light.
But they have met opposition from activists who say the billboards are illegal and pose a threat to both the economic health and scenic beauty of their surroundings.
Barbara Bisno, director of Scenic Miami-Dade, is leading the fight against the towers. She says Barreiro’s amendment “flies in the face” of decades of county planning that has sought to make Miami visually alluring to tourists.
“It’s very sad,” says Bisno, a former federal prosecutor who calls the city’s Clear Channel decision illegal. “We’ve had for 30 years a commitment from the county, and the city has violated it.”
Beyond aesthetic concerns, Bisno also worries that the electronic towers may prove dangerously distracting to expressway commuters.
“These billboards change message every eight seconds with the idea, of course, to catch the eye of motorists, which goes against the public interest on its face” she says. “Now we’ll have people texting, talking, and looking away while going 50 to 60 miles per hour.”
With the committee’s July 13 meeting fast approaching, Bisno is asking concerned citizens to visit Scenic Miami-Dade’s “Take Action” page to let the county know how they feel about the “billboardification” of Miami.