TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s an unwelcome neighbor in South Tampa. A large billboard — which many say resembles what you might see along the side of an interstate — is now in the middle of South Tampa’s popular SoHo bar district along South Howard Avenue.
Many people have reached out to WFLA News Channel 8 voicing their concerns about the billboard that’s on the same property as MacDinton’s Irish Pub.
“It’s a monstrosity, it’s ugly, and it’s unsightly. It blemishes the neighborhood,” said homeowner Lee Oken. “There’s no way that anyone could look at that and say it’s an asset to the neighborhood.”
Those who live nearby thought the billboard surely wasn’t legal, but after calls to the city, they found out it’s perfectly legal.
“In 2001 the city of Tampa attempted to outlaw billboards in our city limits. We were sued by CBS and by Clear Channel. So we entered into a long negotiation and mediation with them and came out with an agreement. They would remove a number of billboards and only be allowed to install a certain amount within our city limits,” said City of Tampa Administrator of Economic Opportunity Bob McDonaugh.
“Unfortunately it is done per the standards in that agreement we have that was reached in 2007,” added McDonaugh.
News Channel 8 reached out to MacDinton’s owner Barry O’Connor, who said he signed a 10-year lease with the company a year-and-a-half ago.
“I don’t think it’s that bad,” said O’Connor, who said he didn’t think it would be a big deal when he signed the lease. O’Connor said he understands the billboard is an eyesore, but asks, “Who can see it from their property?”
Neighbors tell News Channel 8 that they are reaching out to their councilman Harry Cohen in hopes that a change can be made. But legally, O’Connor is well within his rights.
“I would say, unfortunately, there is nothing that the city can do about that,” McDonaugh added.