tampabay.com

Sign catches attention, violates code

The sign went up Saturday - a seven-story, full-color banner of a beaming Charlie Crist, dominating the side of a downtown office building.

By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published October 24, 2006


TAMPA - The sign went up Saturday - a seven-story, full-color banner of a beaming Charlie Crist, dominating the side of a downtown office building.

The idea was to catch voters' attention.

But it also caught the eye of Tampa's top code enforcement official, who says the Republican gubernatorial candidate's sign is illegal.

"We are going to cite the building owner and give them 30 days in which to move it," Curtis Lane, Tampa's code enforcement director, said Monday with a chuckle. "You know why I'm laughing, right?"

Because the election is 15 days away.

There was no word from the Crist campaign on whether it will take the sign down sooner to comply with the law. The campaign did not return a call about details of the agreement to hang the banner.

A building manager for the Franklin Exchange Building where the banner hangs directed inquiries to president Carolyn Wilson of the Wilson Co. Wilson, who approved arrangements for the sign, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

A city ordinance requires that political banners receive a permit and limits their height to 18 feet. Lane estimated the Crist banner was at least 90 feet tall.

Normally that spot on the 22-story building at 655 N Franklin St. is reserved for public art projects.

The Mona Lisard - a 40-foot by 80-foot mural of a green, orange and blue gecko - has hung there since November 2004. It was created by Clearwater artist Silas Beach.

The Crist banner, which is discernible up to 5 miles away at Raymond James Stadium, was placed on top of the gecko.

"I noticed it right off the bat," said Sean Johnson of Tampa, as he stood across the street on the steps of the TECO Building plaza. "It's a little over the edge if you ask me."

Times Staff Writer Janet Zink contributed to this story. Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.