City looks to increase illegal sign fines

Published On: Aug 20 2014 03:24:37 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 20 2014 11:19:24 PM EDT

City Council members vow to do MORE to crack down on what they call sign blight. Some of those sign owners complained to News4JAX that the city is harassing them. Today, council members told us that's exactly what they want done.


Imagine getting called from the city 250 times a day with a recording letting you know you are breaking the law.

That's what's happening to some people who post illegal signs around Jacksonville, and now the city is looking to cash in by upping the fines.

Some of those people being robocalled by the city have complained to News4Jax about the city harassing them. Council members said Wednesday that's what they want.

A Jacksonville business owner named Paul makes a living cutting trees and advertising by posting signs. The city saw his signs with his phone number and has been calling him ever since.

"They're calling me on the phone probably every five minutes telling me I have to appear in court, and they won't leave me alone," Paul said.

A committee of council members and community activists applauded Wednesday when they watched the report saying that's exactly what they want to happen.

Code Enforcement has set up a computer (pictured below) to call the numbers listed on the signs telling them they are illegal and they must pay a fine.

The system has only been operating for nine days. The city has issued eight citations at $55 each, but that's not all. There are 250 numbers programmed in the system that are called every hour, every day.

The biggest violator, according to Code Enforcement, is "We Buy Houses," and it gets about 250 calls every day.

"A small number of violators are creating the worst problem in the city of Jacksonville," said Robert Prado, chief of Code Enforcement.

The city is not only cracking down by calling but is going out and removing signs. Terry Lester was cited in April and was told to pay $350. She saw News4Jax's story on Monday and wanted to say she thinks the way the city is cracking down is very unfair.

"I took it to court and he reduced it from $355 to $180," Lester said. "It's still unfair and unjust. He should have given me a first-time offense."

The city, on the other hand, is now looking at increasing fines, the first offense going from $50 to $150, the second offense going up to $300 and the third up to $500.

Since January the city has collected over $55,000 in fines.

One area the committee might look at is political signs. Right now politicians have some leeway, but Councilman Bill Gulliford said it's time to crack down on them, too.

"I think it's wrong and we got to start enforcing that," Gulliford said. "It's happening right now when you drive around the city. You see it over and over again with signs in the medians, and you know it's coming with the city elections the same doggone thing. Let's be big boys and girls."

One thing the committee may take up down the line are the sign wavers -- the people seen dancing near the street. It is legal right now in Duval County, but Gulliford said down the line the committee may have to take that up as well and possibly outlaw it.


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