Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Clear Channel becomes clear cutter

This is a story by Daphne Sashin of the Orlando Sentinel, from October 7, 2006, which I have re-edited to make it flow more coherently. The direct link is not active: KISSIMMEE -- Five years ago, Osceola County planted stately palms and lush crape myrtles to spruce up a stretch of West U.S. Highway 192 cluttered with tacky T-shirt shops, time-share kiosks and bargain hotels. As part of a $29 million beautification project covering 13 miles of road, workers also planted brightly blooming oleander, viburnum, oaks and loquats. ...The West 192 property owners agreed to tax themselves for 30 years to make the corridor more visually appealing with sidewalks, purple light poles, mile markers and hundreds of trees.... But now, about three dozen trees must be cut down -- because a billboard company says they block the view of signs advertising the Old Town amusement park, a Ponderosa Steakhouse and other businesses.... Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns the billboards, says the trees never should have been planted. Since 1996, DOT has had a rule requiring a 500-foot viewing zone in front of billboards.... A bill signed into law in June sharpened the rule and gave it teeth. The law said anyone who blocked a billboard as part of a beautification effort on a public road had 90 days to remove the trees or pay the value of the sign -- or risk a lawsuit and fines. Billboard owners were entitled to a 500-foot viewing area on roads where the speed limit was more than 35 mph.... The public owns the highway. It owns the land where the trees were planted. But business owns "the view," and their rights are more important than those of taxpayers who saved up for thirty years. If I were the head of FDOT, I would set the speed limit for the area where those nine trees are at 35 miles an hour and name that area the Clear Channel Traffic Clog.
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