Billboard at Sea Oats Beach

Sea Oats Beach once had a billboard. Area residents fought for years to get rid of the billboard that extended into the ocean along the otherwise beautiful Sea Oats Beach! 

After Hurricane Georges struck in the fall of 1998 and did significant damage to the billboard, residents called nearly a dozen enforcement agencies one Sunday morning when heavy equipment was lined up preparing to replace the billboard without permits. Residents lined both sides of the highway prepared to do what they could to stop the work.  The work was halted. 

The sign company then attempted to get a permit to “repair” the sign. Islamorada code would not allow a new sign and would only permit repairs if the cost was less than 50% of the existing value. Billboards are considered personal property not real property and are taxed accordingly in Florida. Diligent residents were able to obtain the tax filing from the state demonstrating the owners claimed the old sign had a value of just $5,000 for tax purposes. Their sign permit was denied.

Later, representatives of the Lower Matecumbe Key Association contacted the property owner and negotiated a purchase of the property for $30,000. 

The Village took over from there and bought part of Sea Oats Beach in November 1999. In an effort to win Lower Matecumbe votes, candidate for Village Council, John Cioffi, with chain saw in hand, waded into the waters to remove the billboard where for years he had advertised his business, T-Shirt City.