What were they thinking?: Beautifying the beach with billboards

SURFING AND SELLING — Paul Domenick captured this photo of a floating billboard off the coast of Miami, and shared it on Flickr.com. Now Volusia County will have floating billboards off its coast.

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If there is one thing we can all agree on, it is that we want to see more advertising. Not just on grocery sacks and branded T-shirts, and not just sign spinners, either.

It has been several years since local governments fell for a pitch from Waverly Media, who wanted to cover the sidewalks with bus-bench billboards. The pitch showed usable benches and promised money, though the deliverables did vary.

After Waverly failed to pay, the benches wound up going away. We wound up getting real benches downtown. Many people probably thought, “Gee, I miss those low-lying billboards cluttering our sidewalks.”

Remember the last several times you drove down I-4? Mostly it would have been before the pandemic, but think back. You probably said, “Wow, I sure wish there were more billboards!”

OK, maybe not recently. Now I prefer to avoid I-4, taking the commuter train when I have to go down to Orange or Osceola counties. That gives me a chance to read, prepare or even work on different cases. But, if I drove, I could enjoy the billboards.

The challenge is that signs generally require some sort of land from which to sprout. Bus benches occupy our sidewalks. Billboards on poles require the land under the poles.

That presents a problem on the beach. Much of the area is, frankly, covered with salt water. It is hard to plant signs there. Fortunately, the County Council has found a solution. They just approved floating billboard boats in the ocean just off the beach.

What were they thinking?: Beautifying the beach with billboards

If Volusia County wanted a company to float advertising up and down the coast, all they had to do was ask.

The scheme requires no payment by the vendor. Instead, on days when it is not safe to operate, they will show announcements warning of dangerous conditions. I guess this constitutes valuable consideration.

It is supposed to be temporary. That may be the same sort of temporary we see in that billboard on U.S. Highway 92 at Brunswick Lane, near the DeLand Municipal Airport, approved as a “temporary” exception back in 2008. You may admire it next weekend as you return from the beach.

Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower said that a static floating billboard would “ruin the beach.” However, if it moves, a floating billboard will add fun to the beach.

Imagine how many people would frequent the beach, if only it offered more advertising fun. So, we can guess what our County Council critters are thinking when they go to the beach — “Hurrah! Now we can have more billboards!”

— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize